Personal politics


Geraldine Sealey
June 22, 2004 11:25PM (UTC)

Kinky details in ugly newly-released divorce papers could jeopardize the political future of Illinois GOP Senate nominee Jack Ryan. The Chicago Tribune has the sordid story today, with a news ratings bonus: Ryan's ex-wife is a TV actress.

Ryan's ex-wife Jeri Ryan accuses the candidate of "taking her to sex clubs in New York and Paris, where he tried to coerce her into having sex with him in front of strangers, according to records released Monday from the couple's California divorce file," the Trib says. "Jack Ryan denied the allegations when they were made in 2000, when the couple was engaged in a bitter child custody battle a year after their divorce."

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Ryan's colleagues are reeling from the allegations, even as some defend him and downplay the story. U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood of Peoria said Ryan should drop out and that he was "shocked" Ryan would run for office with such baggage. "Other Republicans acknowleged that Ryan's political future was in doubt. An adviser to President Bush said the revelation made it more likely the Bush-Cheney campaign would steer clear of Illinois," the Tribune reported.

Yet Ryan's Democratic opponent Barack Obama, did not seize on the blooming scandal, telling the paper it would not be "appropriate" for him to comment. "Obviously Mr. Ryan and his supporters will be discussing this and I don't think that's my role," he said.

Ryan has been less concerned with what is appropriate and less mindful of his opponent's privacy. Ryan employed a staffer, video camera in hand, to follow Obama around last month and record his every move, including private conversations with his family. "To have somebody who is literally following you a foot and a half away everywhere you go ... it seems to be getting a little carried away," Obama told reporters last month as Warfel held a camera inches from Obama's face, according to the Lincoln Courier. "It's this kind of incivility in politics that turns people off to politics."

A Ryan campaign spokeswoman, Kelli Phiel, said stalking Obama was not akin to invading his privacy. "If he's running for public office, he should expect public attention," Phiel said.


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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