When is an affair just an affair? And when is someone’s private sex public business? Those are the questions of the moment following two sets of high-profile allegations involving Republican politicians engaging in extramarital relations. Last week, the National Enquirer alleged that GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz had been “caught cheating” with five mistresses, choosing not to identify the women by name. Earlier in the week, a story broke that Robert Bentley, Alabama’s virulently anti-gay governor, was having an affair with Rebekah Caldwell Mason, his married chief of staff. As Neal Broverman reports for the Advocate, rumors of their affair had been circulating in Washington for years. Both deny the allegations.
Many believe that what takes happens in the bedrooms between consensual adults should stay there, even when it’s politicians whose policies we disagree with. My colleague, Mary Elizabeth Williams, argued that this is hardly the worst misdeed Cruz has ever committed; however, in our extremely sex negative culture, it may be the one that ends his White House run. “[O]f all the reasons that Cruz shouldn’t be president, is an accusation that he slept with other women really the one he ought to go down for?” Williams asks. She astutely notes that—given the possibility that the report was leaked by a Trump staffer—the story is “intriguingly timed, to say the least.”
Should it prove legitimate, inquiry about Ted Cruz’s sex life is more than just “gossip”—as Politico’s Jack Shafer likewise suggested. Cruz’s alleged affairs are worthy of inquiry for the same reason that it’s news when closeted Republicans like Larry Craig foot-tap for sex in an airport bathroom or Randy Boehning is caught on a gay hookup app: Their lies hurt people. Their duplicity, often cloaked in “family values” political rhetoric, profoundly affects the LGBT populations against whose interests they consistently voted, even while engaging in the exact behavior they deemed despicable. In 2006, Craig—the now-disgraced Idaho Senator—supported adding an amendment to the Constitution that would ban same sex-marriage. READ MORE OF THIS STORY