2nd GOP Conservative Admits Affair
Sep. 11, 1998
BOISE, Idaho (AP) _ Rep. Helen Chenoweth admits that her long-term affair with a married man more than a decade ago was wrong.
But the conservative Republican _ the second such critic of President Clinton to publicly disclose an affair in a week _ insists her situation is much different than that of Clinton.
``Since being elected to public office, I have lived my personal life uprightly, in a disciplined way which is worthy of the office entrusted to me,'' she said in a statement Thursday.
Chenoweth, who has sought Clinton's resignation since April because of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, said she was a private citizen and divorced during her affair that ended in 1984. She was first elected a decade later _ after it was disclosed that her opponent once had an affair.
Last week, another Republican hard-liner, Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, acknowledged fathering a child during an extramarital affair in the early 1980s. Burton, who has largely stuck to criticism of Clinton's policies, said he was pre-empting a ``scandal story'' from Vanity Fair magazine.
Some believe it is only the start of a stream of confessions in the partisan furor over Lewinsky.
``There is going to be a domino effect,'' predicted Frank Hagan, a sociology professor at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa. ``The more they push this and push toward impeachment, the more the door for this kind of thing opens.''
The Idaho Statesman forced Chenoweth to go public about the long-rumored affair after she demanded Clinton's resignation and declared in a campaign commercial that ``personal conduct and integrity'' matters.
``Fourteen years ago, when I was a private citizen and a single woman, I was involved in a relationship that I came to regret, that I'm not proud of,'' Chenoweth, 60, told the newspaper. ``I've asked for God's forgiveness, and I've received it.''
University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato said she has no one to blame but herself.
``If you are going to throw stones and you live in a glass house, expect the glass house to be broken,'' Sabato said. ``I'm worried that we're going to have an interminable national Jerry Springer show.''
Democrats have been warning for months that those who pursue the Lewinsky case run the risk that their own peccadilloes will be exposed.
``What this tells you is that Republicans who are trying to gain political capital out of the president's problems better look in the rear-view mirror before attacking their Democratic opponents,'' said Dan Sallick, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He said Chenoweth ``displayed sheer hypocrisy.''
Chenoweth's affair had been rumored for years. The Idaho Statesman said it decided to pursue the story because of Chenoweth's campaign ads accusing Clinton of damaging the presidency with his behavior.
Considered one of the most conservative members of Congress, Chenoweth has gained national attention _ and often criticism _ for a number of her stands. She condemned the Oklahoma City bombing but defended militias in general as legal, leading critics to label her the ``poster girl for the militia movement.''
Chenoweth, who is running for her third term, defeated Democratic Rep. Larry LaRocco four years ago. That election came just a week after the disclosure that LaRocco had falsely denied during an earlier campaign that he had had an affair before he was elected to Congress in 1990.
Chenoweth did not personally make an issue of the matter, saying LaRocco's affair was none of her business. But the disclosure was widely believed to have contributed to her victory.
Her affair was with Vern Ravenscroft, 78, a former state legislator and GOP candidate for governor. He also acknowledged the affair and said it ended when he and Chenoweth decided their families had to come first.
Her current Democratic opponent, Dan Williams, would not comment on the admission, saying only that ``I don't think voters want to hear about politicians personal lives.''
Sabato said Clinton should be held to a much higher standard than members of Congress like Chenoweth.
``But some of them have nothing to be proud of and she's one of them,'' he said. ``Politicians are very good in focusing on other people sins and forgetting their own.''