Exclusive: Doug Hampton Speaks Out on Sen. Ensign's Affair With His Wife

Exclusive: Hampton accuses Sen. Coburn of playing negotiating role.

ByABC News
November 23, 2009, 2:44 PM

Nov. 23, 2009— -- Doug Hampton, the former co-chief of staff to Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., spoke exclusively to "Nightline," about the affair between his former boss and his wife, Cynthia "Cindy" Hampton, also a former Ensign employee.

In the "Nightline" interview, Hampton provides astonishing new details about the affair and its many repercussions, including the end of a close 20-year friendship between the two families and the loss of the Hamptons' jobs.

"Lost my job. Lost my best friend. Nearly lost my wife," he said on the ripple effect of Ensign's affair.

Hampton makes allegations of hypocrisy, hubris -- cover-ups and maybe even crimes -- that have destroyed lives and could destroy Ensign's political career.

"It's hard to comprehend what's still taking place, what's going on this moment, with regards to the unraveling of the choices and the decisions that John's made," Hampton said.

Hampton said he's finally speaking out because he wants Ensign held accountable.

"I think there are missing pieces to what's been reported," he said. "Important for people to understand what the senator has done. ... The truth needs to come out."

Ensign was a rising star in the Republican Party. During his second term, there were already rumblings that the junior senator from Nevada might be the party's next best hope for president.

Ensign was an attractive candidate: good-looking, from a wealthy Las Vegas family, with impeccable conservative credentials. "Born again" in college, Ensign was a loud and leading voice for lawmakers adhering to strict Christian family values. He argued passionately for the Federal Marriage Amendment and publicly condemned President Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky scandal and Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, when he was accused of propositioning another man in a public restroom.

But suddenly, in June 2009, Ensign announced he had had an affair.

"It's absolutely the worst thing I've ever done in my life," he said at the June 16 press conference.

Click here to watch Cynthia McFadden's interview with Doug Hampton.

Confession made, Ensign took no questions. But almost immediately, questions were raised, as it turned out the affair was with Cindy Hampton, Ensign's campaign treasurer -- and his best friend's wife.

The friendship between Ensign and Hampton went back 20 years; neighbors in the same tony Las Vegas suburb, the two families dined together, vacationed together, and their kids attended a private Christian school together.

Both Hampton and Ensign were people of intense faith, praying together at the Meadows Fellowship Church.

In 2006, Ensign asked Hampton to serve as his co-chief of staff in the Senate. Despite Hampton's utter lack of political experience, he said Ensign wanted him there as he walked the corridors of power -- a brother in Christ who would keep him grounded.

"The intimacy of our relationship, the longevity, would be important for John as he continued to grow in political stature. And he asked me to come on to join him in Washington," Hampton said. "Walk alongside in whatever capacity possible. ... Same kind of model that Jesus exhibited in the Bible."

Hampton was thrilled at the opportunity to serve alongside his best friend.

"It was a dream," he said. "I mean, I floated."

But the dream turned into a nightmare during Christmas of 2006, though at the time Hampton didn't know it. His boss and best friend invited Cindy to the White House Christmas party, to which Hampton had no objection.

"An opportunity to meet President Bush and his wife and to go to the White House is an extraordinary opportunity," he said.

But as it turns out, the night was life-altering for Ensign.

"[Ensign] said that's when it all began. He said that's when something changed in terms of his view, look, fascination, attraction to Cindy as a person, was the White House Christmas party," Hampton said.

Hampton said to his knowledge Cindy never looked at Ensign romantically.

"[Cindy] admired John. She was a close friend, he was the boss," he said. "A brother. Cindy always looked at John like a brother."

But exactly one year later, during Christmas of 2007, Hampton made a devastating discovery when he intercepted a text message Ensign had sent to his wife Cindy, that said: "How wonderful it is. Can't believe it's like a kid. Scared, but excited."