February 24, 2010

When Infidelity Makes Headlines

Number of Stories
Larry Craig 383
Eliot Spitzer 285
Tiger Woods 242
Mark Sanford 204
John Edwards 160
Kwame Kilpatrick 100

3rd – Rank of the Tiger Woods saga among top infidelity stories

Ever since Tiger Woods’ Thanksgiving holiday accident, allegations and revelations about his extra-marital affairs have generated headlines in both the tabloid and traditional press—peaking thus far, on February 19 when he went before TV cameras to offer an apology. In the period from November 27, 2009 through February 21, the Woods saga has generated 242 stories in the national media, making it the third-biggest infidelity scandal since PEJ began tracking news coverage in 2007.  

Of the half dozen most covered stories involving infidelity, the Woods case was the only one that didn’t involve a politician. And the official who generated the most media attention was former Idaho Senator Larry Craig.

On August 27, 2007, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported that Craig had been arrested June 11 for “lewd behavior” in a restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and had pled guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct. Craig vehemently denied the allegations that he was gay, and said he regretted his guilty plea, and did not seek re-election in 2008. All totaled, the Craig saga generated 383 stories.  

The second biggest infidelity story (285 stories) came to light March 10, 2008, when a New York Times story revealed that former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was involved with a high-priced prostitution ring. He resigned two days later. Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina was the principal in the No. 4 scandal, at 204 stories. After a weeklong disappearance in June 2009, Sanford admitted to an affair with a woman from Argentina. The fallout continued with inquiries into possible use of state funds for the trip and an attempted impeachment. Sanford paid back the funds and the impeachment charges were dropped.

Former presidential hopeful John Edwards’ long-running situation (160 stories) ranks as the fifth-biggest infidelity story. On August 8, 2008, Edwards admitted to an affair with campaign worker Reille Hunter, but denied that Hunter’s child was his. What followed were allegations of hush money, sex tapes and Edwards’ eventual acknowledgement on January 29, 2010 that he was the father of Hunter’s daughter, Quinn.

The No. 6 infidelity story (100 stories) involved Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who made national news following the January 2008 release of steamy text messages with his Chief of Staff, Christine Beatty, on city-issued pagers in 2002 and 2003. Kilpatrick pled guilty to obstruction of justice charges and was sentenced to four months in jail. He resigned following that hearing.

Tricia Sartor and Dana Page of PEJ