Surviving a Scandal Is All in the Timing

A few years later in 1976 an Ohio Republican, Wayne Hays, was forced to step down after the Washington Post reported he had put his mistress, Elizabeth Ray, on his House payroll as a secretary. Ray said, "I can't type. I can't file. I can't even answer the phone."

In 1983 the House censured two congressmen, Republican Dan Crane and Gerry Studds, for engaging in sex with congressional pages. Crane admitted involvement with a female page. He ran for re-election, but lost. In Studds' case the page was a 17-year-old boy. Studds was re-elected until his retirement 14 years later.

So, it is not entirely accurate to say that voters and other politicians are more forgiving of heterosexuals than gays. Barney Frank, an openly gay Democratic congressman, was faced with scandal in 1990. A male escort, Steve Gobie, claimed that he used Frank's apartment for liaisons when the congressman was not at home. Frank said he was unaware of Gobie's activities. The House Ethics Committee found no evidence that Frank was supporting male prostitution. Even so, the House voted to reprimand him. But today, he is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee.

Republican Congressman Mark Foley was not so fortunate. Members of both parties wanted him ousted because teenage boys, who had served as congressional pages, had received suggestive e-mails and sexually explicit instant messages. After ABC News confronted Foley, he resigned. In Frank's case, unlike Foley's, congressional pages were not involved. The outrage expressed at Foley seemed to have nothing to do with his sexual orientation, and everything to do with the widespread belief that he dealt improperly with young people seeking to learn the ways of Washington.

Many Republicans believe the Foley scandal was a key factor in the Democratic victory last November. With that in mind, they quickly called for Craig to step down. If there had been no Foley scandal, the pressure on Craig might not have been so great. Again, timing was, if not everything, still very important.

Now Craig is wondering whether his own timing was a bit off, wondering whether he really had to announce his resignation so quickly. And wondering now whether there is still time to change his mind.

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