Andy Kusi-Appiah: Will Senator Meredith survive this sex scandal?

Andy Kusi-Appiah

Andy Kusi-Appiah

Will Senator Meredith survive this sex scandal?

by Prof. Andy Kusi-Appiah

Another high profile political appointee has found himself in a tough spot, engaging in an extra marital affair with a beautiful young lady.  I am referring to the latest brouhaha at the Canadian Senate – the supposed sober reflection for all our rules and laws. This story will take on a life of its own, and people will read all kinds of meanings into it, depending on where they stand in the big scheme of things.  I have heard people who say confidently to me that this issue is more than a sexual scandal, and there are others who believe that the law should take its course.

Whether Senator Meredith survives or perishes will depend on the kind of politics that will be played in the public media, social media, and how the political establishment respond. I have followed sexual scandals for some time now, and I can say that, regardless of who was involved, the response is never the same. For some, redemption is possible, for others luck seems to elude them.  For starters, I think Senator Meredith and his handlers must seriously think about poring through the stories of the numerous sex scandals that have occurred in the past in North America, and take some pointers from there.

 American examples

The now famous story of former U.S. President Bill Clinton is all too familiar for me to rehash.  Just before the dawn of the 21st century, young, handsome, and non-greying Bill Clinton, had an affair with an even younger White House intern.  He denied having sexual relations with that woman, Monika Lewinsky. There was too much evidence, and he was impeached, but he survived to complete his presidential double term.

In 2011, former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) was caught with explicit twitter messages sent to the account of a young female follower. Weiner denied his actions in public. Subsequently he had a change of heart, admitted his indiscretions and resigned from Congress.  Weiner didn’t end there – he sought therapy, restored his marriage and then ran for Mayor of New York City.  He lost!

He was a four star general, a former Director of the CIA, a rumoured presidential candidate. Then he was caught in an adulterous situation.  I am referring to David Petraeus, a former Commander of the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.  David Petraeus had met Paula Broadwell, and they became friendly and then eventually slept together. David Petraeus was a married man. The affair came out after the FBI began to investigate threatening emails sent by Broadwell to Petraeus’ family friend, Jill Kelley. After an FBI investigation, David Petraeus resigned as Director of the CIA in November 2012.

Canadian examples

In 1933, John Edward Brownlee,  Alberta’s fifth premier was forced to resign after he was sued for seduction by Vivian MacMillan, an 18-year-old daughter of one of Brownlee’s political allies. The case eventually went all the way to the Supreme Court, which sided with MacMillan.  That was the end of Brownlee’s political career.

In 1978, Francis Fox, the 38 year old solicitor-general in Pierre Elliot Trudeau’s cabinet, and a rising star, was forced to publicly admit that he had secretly arranged for a former mistress to have an abortion, and had forged her husband’s signature on hospital records granting her permission for the procedure. The relationship didn’t last and neither did Fox’s marriage. But Fox’s career survived. He resigned as solicitor- general, but went on to be re-elected and reappointed to cabinet. He was made a senator in 2005, and stepped down only recently.

In 2008, Maxime Bernier, the star of Stephen Harper’s Quebec caucus, was forced to resign as foreign affairs minister, after admitting he had left classified government documents at the home of his then-girlfriend, Julie Couillard. Maxime Bernier is currently seeking the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada

Whether Senator   Meredith will be redeemed will depend on the mood of the people, which will be reflected in the public media and social media.

About the writer

Andy Kusi-Appiah is an adjunct professor at Carleton University. His interests are in the impact of social and environmental changes on the health and well-being of vulnerable groups (e.g., 2nd generation Canadians of African descent).
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