Republican ratchetness is a serious ailment that affects dozens of politicians each year. It’s currently hitting Gov. Mike Pence (Indiana) hard, given his state’s controversial religious freedom law that basically means business owners can turn away LGBT customers because the Bible tells them so. It’s also taking a toll on embattled Rep. Aaron Schock (Illinois) who resigned from his House seat over an ethics scandal. Texas Senator Ted Cruz recently announced his presidential bid, which means his ratchetness is just beginning — he did call climate change activists “flat-Earthers” after all. However, this stuff is just child’s play compared to what other right-winged suits have done in the past. (We’re looking at you, Mark Sanford.)
From sex scandals to homophobic comments, these politicians represent the essence of Republican ratchetry: ignorance, stupidity, and just a bad moral compass. Isn’t it ironic these conservatives are engaging in some very un-conservative behavior? Tsk-tsk. Browse through our picks for the best of the worst red-state politicos, and let us know what you think in the comments below. (We guarantee a self-esteem boost, because — let’s be real — none of you are this awful.)
Mark Sanford (South Carolina)
In June 2009, Sanford — who was governor of South Carolina at the time and now serves as a U.S. representative for the state’s first congressional district — disappeared without a trace for a few days, only to be confronted by a reporter in Atlanta. Turns out, he hadn’t been hiking in the Appalachian Trail, as his staff reported: he paid a trip to Argentina to visit María Belén, his mistress. Sanford’s extramarital affair began in 2008, but his wife Jenny actually became aware of it five months before the media explosion. (Which makes sense, given the couple began a trial separation two weeks before shit hit the fan.) As a result, Sanford resigned as Chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Surprisingly, he wasn’t impeached.
David Vitter (Louisiana)
The senior United States senator has a problem with same-sex marriage and is 100 percent here for abstinence-only education. However, he’s super casual when it comes to high-class call girls. In 2007, his phone number somehow popped up on a list belonging to Pamela Martin and Associates, an escort service, owned by the late Deborah Jeane Palfrey (dubbed the “D.C. Madam” by media). Vitter released a statement asking the public to forgive him for his “very serious sin,” which worked for all intensive purposes. He kept his seat in the Senate.
Mike Pence (Indiana)
On March 26, the Indiana governor signed the “religious objections” bill into law. According to CNN Money, the law “gives businesses owners who oppose homosexuality for religious reasons the right to turn away gay, lesbian and transgender people.” Many opponents, including Apple’s CEO Tim Cook, see the bill as a disguise to discriminate against LGBT people. It’s garnered such a strong negative reaction that governors in New York, Washington state, and Connecticut have banned state-funded travel to Indiana. However, Pence insists he wasn’t prepared for this reception and that the law isn’t what people think it is (WTF, honestly). “It would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone,” Pence said in a Tuesday press conference. “Was I expecting this kind of backlash?” has asked before answering himself, “Heavens no.” Cool, dude.
Sarah Palin (Alaska)
The 2008 vice presidential candidate and reader of all the newspapers has gotten her fair share of flack in the press. But in 2012, she made an offensive snide toward President Barack Obama that had people up in arms. In her criticism of the White House’s response to the Benghazi American consulate attacks, Palin wrote on her Facebook page, “We deserve answers to this. President Obama’s shuck and jive shtick with these Benghazi lies must end.” CNN swiftly pointed out the racial connotation of this phrase, noting, “’Shucking and jiving’ have long been words used as a negative assessment of African Americans, along the lines of a ’foot shufflin’ Negro.'”
Reactions were not pretty (and rightfully so). Check out this tweet from The Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead:
— Lizz Winstead (@lizzwinstead) October 24, 2012
But Palin remained tone-deaf, as per usual. She responded to her haters by writing on Facebook (again), “For the record, there was nothing remotely racist in my use of the phrase ’shuck and jive.'” Except yes there was.
John Ensign (Nevada)
In June 2009, the former Nevada senator revealed he was had an affair with his former campaign staff member Cindy Hampton from December 2007 to August 2008. The incident led to investigations by the FBI, Federal Election Committee, and the Senate. In May 2011, Ensign resigned as senator.
Larry Craig (Idaho)
The then-Idaho senator was arrested in June 2007 for disorderly conduct, but it’s not the sort of drunken shenanigans you’re thinking. According to police reports, Craig entered a bathroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and used foot tapping and hand gesturing to signal his desire to engage in sexual behavior with an undercover police officer. What’s crazy is that this incident flew under the radar until the Washington newspaper Roll Call broke the story in August. Then, all hell broke loose. Despite originally intending to resign, Craig finished out his term. However, he did have to step down as liaison to the Senate on the Mitt Romney campaign.
Michele Bachmann (Minnesota)
The former United States House of Representatives member — and “Queen of Rage,” according to Newsweek — says a lot of pretty terrible things. However, she emerged in June 2014 with some of her most homophobic comments ever. While speaking to the conservative radio show Faith & Liberty about LGBT people, Bachmann claimed polygamous marriage and legalizing child molestation are on the horizon due to the “deviance” she feels is being “embraced” in culture today. “I think also they want to abolish age of consent laws, which means we will do away with statutory rape laws so that adults would be able to freely prey on little children sexually,” she said. Right — because a marriage between two adults and preying on children are the same thing. Those eyes, man. Those eyes.
Rick Santorum (Pennsylvania)
The former senator’s inflammatory statements on homosexuality — and subsequent reactions begging for him to resign — are numerous. So, let’s stick to the highlights (or, erm, low-lights), shall we? In 2003, Santorum was asked by the Associated Press about his reaction to the Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandal. In his answer, he asserted the priests and young boys were involved in “a basic homosexual relationship.” When later asked by the same journalist if homosexual people should have sex, Santorum said, “In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality. That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing.” To make it even better (read: worse), Santorum told Fox News — of course — that he didn’t need to apologize for his comments. Jesus.
Clayton Williams (Texas)
This one’s an oldie, but
Steve King (Iowa)
You know you screwed up when people in your own party are shaming you. And that’s exactly what happened to Iowa’s fourth congressional district U.S. representative when he made some awful remarks about young, undocumented immigrants. In a July 2013 interview with Newsmax, King said, “For everyone who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds — and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” GOP leaders were not too pleased with King’s comments. Notably, House Speaker John Boehner said, “What he said is wrong. There can be honest disagreements about policy without using hateful language. Everyone needs to remember that.” But of course, King didn’t get the memo. A few months later, he told the Iowa Daily Reporter, “I’m not going to apologize. What I’ve said is objectively true, and any time that Republicans have criticized me, it’s not because of what I said, it’s because they disagree with my agenda.” Go home, Steve.
Todd Akin (Missouri)
And the award for stupidest Republican moment goes to this former Missouri congressman for his 2012 abortion comments. When asked by a St. Louis television station if he believes abortion is justified in rape cases, Akin said, “It seems to be, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, it’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.” (Who are these mysterious “doctors,” we ask?) Both Romney and Obama (who were running for president at the time) spoke out against Akin. “Rape is rape,” Obama said. “And the idea that we should be parsing and qualifying and slicing what types of rape we are talking about doesn’t make sense to the American people and certainly doesn’t make sense to me.” Two years later, Akin tried defending himself by telling MSNBC “legitimate rape” is a law enforcement term, and that’s why he used it. However, TIME magazine editors did some sleuthing and came to the conclusion that it’s definitely not a phrase used among officers. Better luck next time, Todd.
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