Scandalous Comebacks: Politicians Bounce Back

PHOTO: Former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford answers questions from reporters after voting in Charleston, S.C., April 2, 2013.
Bruce Smith/AP Photo

After a strange disappearance and an extramarital affair with an Argentinean reporter, disgraced former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford emerged victorious from Tuesday's Republican House primary run-off, proving that a political comeback is still possible.

ABC News takes a look at other politicians who have rebounded after weathering devastating controversy.

PHOTO: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford fields questions from the media following a special meeting with his Cabinet in the Wade Hampton Building at the Statehouse complex on June, 26, 2009. The cabinet meeting was the governor's first planned appearance
Davis Turner/Getty Images
Mark Sanford

Mark Sanford, the former South Carolina governor, who ended his term tarnished by one of the most sensational political sex scandals in recent memory, mounted the latest political comeback by winning the Republican primary to become the party's candidate for the U.S. House seat that he once held.

Over three years ago, then-Gov. Sanford disappeared from the statehouse for five days unbeknownst to his family and friends. The sneaky getaway turned out to be an Argentinean vacation for Sanford who snuck off to visit his mistress.

Though his staffers tried to claim that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail, Sanford's wife divorced him and leaked the juicy secrets of his affair in a best-selling book titled, "Staying True."

After the news leaked, Stanford stood on the steps of the State House in Columbia and took responsibility for his actions.

"I've spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina. I am committed to trying to get my heart right," he continued.

"The bottom line is this: I have been unfaithful to my wife. Let me apologize to my wife Jenny and my four boys ... for letting them down… "What I did was wrong. Period. End of story."

While Sanford's personal life was under hot water, his political career turned out to be as strong as ever. This past Tuesday, Sanford defeated Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch, sister of TV funnyman, Steven Colbert, in claiming a vacant South Carolina congressional seat in a special election.

Read More About Mark Sanford Here

PHOTO: Bill Clinton hugs Monica Lewinsky at the Democratic Fundraiser in Washington, DC, Oct. 23, 1996.
Dirck Halstead/Liaison Agency/Getty Images
Bill Clinton

Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones and Gennifer Flowers. Names that are indelibly tied to both the 42nd President of the United States Bill Clinton and scandal.

In perhaps the most infamous sex scandal to rock 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, allegations that Clinton had been engaging in an inappropriate sexual relationship with then-White House Intern Monica Lewinsky emerged in 1998.

Clinton was subsequently impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives after denying the affair under oath, a claim which he later admitted to. He was acquitted of the charges. In the years following the Lewinsky scandal, Clinton has assumed the role of an elder statesman of sorts and the premier campaigner for both President Barack Obama and his wife, former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

PHOTO: Barney Frank at his press conference where he talks about his relationship with a young man a few years prior, Sept. 25, 1989.
Janet Knott/The Boston Globe/Getty Images
Barney Frank

Barney Frank, who served a 32-year stint in Congress, was involved in one of the most racy political sex scandals of all time. Frank retired in January from his 16-term stint as a Democrat representing the state of Massachusetts but his lofty political career almost came to a screeching halt in 1989 when he was caught having an affair with Steve Gobie, a male prostitute.

Barney Frank was the first serving member of Congress to come out as gay but before he came out of the closet, Frank was accused of using his personal funds to engage in sexual activity with Gobie, which is illegal in his state of Massachusetts.

The affair led to knowledge of a prostitution ring that Gobie was running out of the representative's apartment after Frank allowed him to live at his home. Frank claimed he allowed the male escort to live with him in an attempt to help turn his life around but he maintained that he did not know what was going on in his apartment.

After the House Ethics Committee conducted an investigation at the request of Frank, it was confirmed that he was unaware of the prostitution ring, Frank was reprimanded for misuse of House privileges when it came to light that he used his political pull to have 33 of Gobie's outstanding parking tickets dismissed.

The scandal, however, did not seem to severely affect Frank's politics as he won re-election the next year and in multiple elections to follow.

Though he retired from the House, Frank recently tried to get back into the game expressing interest in serving as the interim to fill John Kerry's vacated Senate seat.

PHOTO: Austria-born actor and former governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger speaks to journalists at Gardermoen, near Oslo, on Nov. 21, 2011, the same year that news of fathering a child from his former housekeeper was released.
Gorm Kallestad/AFP/Getty Images
Arnold Schwarzenegger

Former body builder Arnold Schwarzenegger faced numerous allegations of sexual misconduct during his initial run for "Governator" of California in 2003. Dubbed "Gropegate" by the mainstream media, six women came forward alleging that the Austrian native had touched them inappropriately over the years.

That didn't derail Schwarzenegger's campaign, as he served as the Governor of the Golden State for seven years. The sex scandals weren't over just yet for Arnold. Fast forward to 2011 when the news that Arnold had fathered a child with his former housekeeper broke. While the affair effectively terminated his marriage with Maria Shriver, Schwarzenegger released a tell-all biography "Total Recall" that aided in restoring his public image.

PHOTO: U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas raises his right hand as he is sworn in, Sept. 10 1991, during confirmation hearings before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, in Washington D.C. after Anita Hill filed sexual harassment charges against Th
David Ake/AFP/Getty Images
Clarence Thomas

Clarence Thomas made a comeback before his term as Supreme Court Justice even began. Just days before Thomas underwent nomination hearings in the U.S. Senate and a vote was scheduled, Anita Hill, a law professor at the University of Oklahoma, told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Thomas made sexual advances on her while she worked as his aide at the Department of Education in 1991.

Hill claimed that the Supreme Court nominee made inappropriate comments to her about pornographic movies, commented on her body and repeatedly asked her out on dates.

When Thomas became chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Hill followed him to the position and said that the sexual advances continued and escalated. While testifying, she told then-chairman Sen. Joe Biden, "He began to show displeasure in his tone of voice and his demeanor in his continued pressure for an explanation [of why I wouldn't go out with him]," Hill testified. "He commented on what I was wearing in terms of whether it made me more or less sexually attractive." The alleged incidents occurred in his inner office at the EEOC.

"One of the oddest episodes I remember was an occasion in which Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office, he got up from the table at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, 'Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?'"

After Thomas denied the charges, the vote was pushed back a week but on October 15, 1991 the senate confirmed Thomas' seat on the Court. He was approved 52-48, the smallest margin that a Supreme Court confirmation vote has seen to date.

Read More About Justice Clarence Thomas Here

PHOTO: Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista Gingrich stroll through the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference at the Gaylord National Resort & Conference Center at National Harbor, Md., on March 16, 2013.
Douglas Graham/Getty Images
Newt Gingrich

Gingrich was charged with 84 ethics violations during his tenure as speaker of the House, but only one charge involving a tax-exempt college course was substantiated. He resigned from the post in 1999, but remained on Washington's political scene until 2012 when the Georgian made a dash at the Republican presidential nomination.

In the midst of the campaign, Gingrich's former wife Marianne Ginther-Gingrich told ABC's "Nightline" the politician had requested an "open marriage." While Gingrich denied the claim, he did admit to a six-year affair with current wife Callista while still married to Ginther. Alongside Callista, Gingrich now owns and operates Gingrich Productions, a multimedia production company based in Washington, DC.

PHOTO: Former Italian Premier and leader of the center-right coalition Silvio Berlusconi speaks in Rome, March 23, 2013.
Robert Monaldo/Lapresse/AP Photo
Silvio Berlusconi

In 2011, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was charged with paying for sex with a 17-year-old Moroccan belly dancer and using his political power to cover up his actions.

Berlusconi also reportedly hosted orgies, called "bunga bunga" parties. Though Berlusconi denied these accusations, he jokingly claimed that, "I'm 74 years old and even though I may be a bit of a rascal, 33 girls in two months seems to me too much even for a 30-year-old."

Two years prior, Veronica Lario, his wife of 19 years, filed for divorce, publicly accusing Berlusconi of "consorting with minors" after he attended birthday party of an 18-year-old aspiring actress and model. Both Berlusconi and the girl's family denied the claims.

Though wrapped up in a number of sexual scandals, Berlusconi served as the Italian Prime Minister until his resignation in November, 2011. His political comeback, however, might not be totally over. In December, Berlusconi announced that he wants to run in the 2013 elections for Italian prime minister for the fifth time.

See More European Sex Scandals Here

PHOTO: Assemblyman Vito Lopez during session at the Capitol, Jan. 14, 2013, in Albany, N.Y.
Mike Groll/AP Photo
Vito J. Lopez

The former chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party was removed from his post in August 2012 following allegations by five former staffers that Lopez fostered a "sexually hostile" work environment.

According to the whistle blowers, Lopez requested that female employees wear no bras, high heels and short skirts to work and urged them to break up with their boyfriends. Lopez was forced to step down, and was berated for his actions by New York's top political players, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

Despite the allegations of sexual misconduct, he was re-elected last November as a member of the New York State Assembly. According to the New York Times, Lopez told reporters on his first day back, "I don't want to walk away from the people I represent and legitimate the media's criticism."

PHOTO: San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom is surrounded by reporters as he walks through city hall February 2, 2007 in San Francisco. after he admitted to an affair with Ruby Rippey-Tourk, the wife of his re-election campaign manager.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Gavin Newsom

In 2007, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom got tangled up in sex and politics when he not only had an affair, but had an affair with his campaign manager's wife.

Alex Tourk, close friend and campaign manager of Newsom resigned after confronting him about having sexual relations with his 34-year-old wife, Ruby Rippey-Tourk, who once worked as Newsom's appointment secretary.

The mayor apologized for his affair saying that the allegations were true and that he was "deeply sorry."

The mayor had a lot of buzz surrounding his love life even before word his affair got out. Talk of romances with Brittanie Mountz, a model and restaurant hostess, as well as "CSI: Miami" star Sofia Milos surrounded Newsom, who was elected as the city's youngest mayor in 100 years.

However, his public scandal did not hinder his political career. In 2011, the Democrat left the mayoral seat behind and assumed office as lieutenant governor of California.

PHOTO: WASHINGTON - MARCH 05: Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-MA, receives a standing ovation as he arrives at the closing session of the White House's forum on health care reform in the East Room of the White House as U.S. Rep Patrick Kennedy, D-RI, right, looks on
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Ted Kennedy

Scandal followed the late Ted Kennedy throughout most of his career in the political arena. At a party on Martha's Vineyard in 1969, Kennedy was allegedly involved in a drunk-driving incident where passenger Mary Jo Kopechne drowned after Kennedy drove off a bridge.

Later in 1989, European photographers caught the senator having sex on a motorboat. Another scandal followed two years later when on Easter weekend Kennedy visited a Palm Beach, Fla., bar with his nephew William Kennedy Smith.

The group met two women and Smith and one of the women, Patricia Bowman, left the bar together.

Bowman claimed that she was raped by Smith, while he insisted that the sex was consensual. Smith was later acquitted of all charges.

Despite a constant set of media firestorms, Kennedy died in 1999 being viewed by the left as the most prominent face of the American Democratic Party and a champion of the progressive movement.

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