Skip to main content
Part of complete coverage from

Zombie politicians find new life after disgrace

By Dean Obeidallah, Special to CNN
April 3, 2013 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, resigned from Congress in 2011 after being embroiled for weeks in a sex scandal linked to his lewd online exchanges with women. Weiner announced in May that he was running for mayor of New York City, saying in a video announcing his campaign, "I hope I get a second chance to work for you." Weiner's comeback bid suffered a potential setback Tuesday, July 23, when he acknowledged more sexually tinged exchanges with an unnamed woman. "What I did was wrong," Weiner said in a statement about the newly emerged communications. Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-New York, resigned from Congress in 2011 after being embroiled for weeks in a sex scandal linked to his lewd online exchanges with women. Weiner announced in May that he was running for mayor of New York City, saying in a video announcing his campaign, "I hope I get a second chance to work for you." Weiner's comeback bid suffered a potential setback Tuesday, July 23, when he acknowledged more sexually tinged exchanges with an unnamed woman. "What I did was wrong," Weiner said in a statement about the newly emerged communications.
HIDE CAPTION
Anthony Weiner
Eliot Spitzer
Mark Sanford
Bill Clinton
Newt Gingrich
Gary Hart
Dennis Kucinich
David Vitter
Marion Barry
Richard Nixon
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dean Obeidallah: Disgraced politicians can write a book, go on TV, run for office again
  • Obeidallah: Fallen politicians never die, just like zombies
  • Just think of Bob Ney, Eliot Spitzer, Tom DeLay, Rod Blagojevich, Mark Sanford, he says
  • Obeidallah: Are we so forgiving because we reward fame regardless of how it's attained?

Editor's note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is a political comedian and frequent commentator on various TV networks including CNN. He is the editor of the politics blog The Dean's Report and co-host of a new CNN podcast "The Big Three" that looks at the top 3 stories of the week. Follow him on Twitter @deanofcomedy.

(CNN) -- Ronald Reagan once joked, "Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed, there are many rewards. If you disgrace yourself, you can always write a book."

Today, that joke would have to be updated to add that not only can you write a book, but you can also be on reality TV show, host cable news programs, run for office again and possibly even win.

Disgraced politicians never die. They're like Jason from the "Friday the 13th" movies -- you just can't kill them. They keep coming at you like the political version of zombies.

Dean Obeidallah
Dean Obeidallah

Sure, some fallen politicians still write books about their "adventures."

Former Ohio congressman Bob Ney recently made the rounds on the talk show circuit to promote his new memoir. Ney, who resigned in 2006, served more than a year in prison after pleading guilty to corruption charges in connection with the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



But books are nothing compared to the other ways sullied politicians can profit off of their newly found infamy.

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer -- who resigned because he was caught frequenting prostitutes -- went on to host not one, but two different shows on cable TV. The first one was on CNN, and the second one was on Current TV.

CIA Director David Petraeus stepped down Friday, November 9, 2012, citing an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Many questions surround the affair, including why it was necessary for Petraeus to resign and the future of his marriage to his wife, Holly. Here's a look at other U.S. sexual scandals that led to political stumbles and downfalls. CIA Director David Petraeus stepped down Friday, November 9, 2012, citing an extramarital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Many questions surround the affair, including why it was necessary for Petraeus to resign and the future of his marriage to his wife, Holly. Here's a look at other U.S. sexual scandals that led to political stumbles and downfalls.
Public figures, private missteps
HIDE CAPTION
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
>
>>
Photos: Public figures, private missteps Photos: Public figures, private missteps

Then there's exploiting your scandal in the time between when you're indicted and convicted of the crime. Former Texas congressman Tom DeLay -- while under indictment and awaiting a trial date -- appeared as a contestant on the hit TV show "Dancing with the Stars." DeLay was later convicted of campaign finance violations and money laundering.

But the guy who set the bar high for all disgraced politicians is former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

After being removed from office by the state legislature and while under indictment, Blagojevich wrote a book about his scandal, went on "The Daily Show" and "Letterman" and was a contestant on Season 9 of Donald Trump's "The Celebrity Apprentice." Blagojevich even appeared at the Wizard World Chicago Comic Con (a comic book convention), where he charged $50 for autographs and $80 for a photo with him. He was subsequently convicted of corruption charges and sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Among politicians who don't end up in jail, some try hard to become elected officials again. They want to go back to the very place that caused their problems. It's like a recovering drug addict asking to work at a meth lab -- not a good combo.

Mark Sanford: How I learned from scandal

Just look at former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, who is running to fill a recently vacated Congressional seat. As a refresher, Sanford disappeared for six days in 2009 while governor. At first, Sanford's office publicly stated that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. However, we soon found out that he was actually in Argentina visiting the woman with whom he was having an extramarital affair.

Sanford seeks 'redemption' in wild congressional race

Sanford later paid $74,000 to settle charges that he had misused state resources and campaign funds in conducting his affair. However, Sanford refused to resign and completed his term.

Flash forward to March 19: Sanford came in first in a crowded field of Republicans in the GOP Congressional primary. Recent polls show him with a 10-point lead over his opponent in the Republican primary runoff scheduled for April 2.

Sanford's quest for forgiveness in return to political life

And don't forget Anthony Weiner, the former Democratic Congressman from New York City. As most people, and all comedians, vividly recall, Weiner had "accidentally" tweeted photos of himself in his underwear to a young woman on Twitter. Weiner later admitted to having non-sexual but "inappropriate" relationships with various women on social media. Weiner resigned from Congress a few weeks after the scandal broke in June 2011.

What's Weiner up to now? Apparently he has figured out how to use Twitter and is at least considering a return to politics. Weiner revealed he had spent more than $100,000 on polls recently to explore possibly running for office in New York City.

What does it say about us that these disgraced politicians have success -- however fleetingly -- after their scandals? Is it because we are a forgiving lot who believe in second chances if the person has sincerely apologized and seeks redemption? Or is it because we are all infected with the reality-show mindset where we reward fame regardless of how it's attained?

Plenty of people don't distinguish between whether a person is famous for good or bad reasons. All that matters is if a person has made it to that semi-exclusive club of celebritydom. After that, enough people will support the person to merit securing a book deal, being cast on a reality show and maybe run for office.

Look, I'm all for redemption and second chances. But I'm also aware that just like we saw with Jason in "Friday the 13th" movies, the longer he's alive, the more damage he will do.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dean Obeidallah.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
Paul Callan says the grand jury is the right process to use to decide if charges should be brought against the police officer
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1619 GMT (0019 HKT)
Theresa Brown says the Ebola crisis brought nurses into the national conversation on health care. They need to stay there.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2235 GMT (0635 HKT)
Patrick Hornbeck says don't buy the hype: The arguments the Vatican used in its interim report would have virtually guaranteed that same-sex couples remained second class citizens
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1336 GMT (2136 HKT)
Paul Begala says Iowa's U.S. Senate candidate, Joni Ernst, told NRA she has right to use gun to defend herself--even from the government. But shooting at officials is not what the Founders had in mind
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2208 GMT (0608 HKT)
John Sutter: Why are we so surprised the head of a major international corporation learned another language?
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Jason Johnson says Ferguson isn't a downtrodden community rising up against the white oppressor, but it is looking for justice
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 1621 GMT (0021 HKT)
Sally Kohn says a video of little girls dressed as princesses using the F-word very loudly to condemn sexism is provocative. But is it exploitative?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2006 GMT (0406 HKT)
Timothy Stanley says Lewinsky is shamelessly playing the victim in her affair with Bill Clinton, humiliating Hillary Clinton again and aiding her critics
October 23, 2014 -- Updated 1414 GMT (2214 HKT)
Imagine being rescued from modern slavery, only to be charged with a crime, writes John Sutter
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
Tidal flooding used to be a relatively rare occurrence along the East Coast. Not anymore, write Melanie Fitzpatrick and Erika Spanger-Siegfried.
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
Carol Costello says activists, writers, politicians have begun discussing their abortions. But will that new approach make a difference on an old battleground?
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1312 GMT (2112 HKT)
Sigrid Fry-Revere says the National Organ Transplant Act has caused more Americans to die waiting for an organ than died in both World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 1851 GMT (0251 HKT)
Crystal Wright says racist remarks like those made by black Republican actress Stacey Dash do nothing to get blacks to join the GOP
October 21, 2014 -- Updated 2207 GMT (0607 HKT)
Mel Robbins says by telling her story, Monica Lewinsky offers a lesson in confronting humiliating mistakes while keeping her head held high
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Cornell Belcher says the story of the "tea party wave" in 2010 was bogus; it was an election determined by ebbing Democratic turnout
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 2012 GMT (0412 HKT)
Les Abend says pilots want protocols, preparation and checklists for all contingencies; at the moment, controlling a deadly disease is out of their comfort zone
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 0336 GMT (1136 HKT)
David Weinberger says an online controversy that snowballed from a misogynist attack by gamers into a culture war is a preview of the way news is handled in a world of hashtag-fueled scandal
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1223 GMT (2023 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Paul Krugman makes some good points in his defense of President Obama but is premature in calling him one of the most successful presidents.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 0221 GMT (1021 HKT)
Conservatives can't bash and slash government and then suddenly act surprised if government isn't there when we need it, writes Sally Kohn
October 22, 2014 -- Updated 1205 GMT (2005 HKT)
ISIS is looking to take over a good chunk of the Middle East -- if not the entire Muslim world, write Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider.
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1300 GMT (2100 HKT)
The world's response to Ebola is its own sort of tragedy, writes John Sutter
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 2033 GMT (0433 HKT)
Hidden away in Russian orphanages are thousands of children with disabilities who aren't orphans, whose harmful treatment has long been hidden from public view, writes Andrea Mazzarino
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
When you hear "trick or treat" this year, think "nudge," writes John Bare
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0442 GMT (1242 HKT)
The more than 200 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls have become pawns in a larger drama, writes Richard Joseph.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1345 GMT (2145 HKT)
Peggy Drexler said Amal Alamuddin was accused of buying into the patriarchy when she changed her name to Clooney. But that was her choice.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2043 GMT (0443 HKT)
Ford Vox says the CDC's Thomas Frieden is a good man with a stellar resume who has shown he lacks the unique talents and vision needed to confront the Ebola crisis
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 0858 GMT (1658 HKT)
How can such a numerically small force as ISIS take control of vast swathes of Syria and Iraq?
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1342 GMT (2142 HKT)
How big a threat do foreign fighters in Syria and Iraq pose to the West? It's a question that has been much on the mind of policymakers and commentators.
October 17, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
More than a quarter-million American women served honorably in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Now they are home, we have an obligation to help them transition back to civilian life.
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Paul Begala says Rick Scott's deeply weird refusal to begin a debate because rival Charlie Crist had a fan under his podium spells disaster for the Florida governor--delighting Crist
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0407 GMT (1207 HKT)
The longer we wait to engage on Ebola, the more limited our options will become, says Marco Rubio.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Democratic candidates who run from President Obama in red states where he is unpopular are making a big mistake, says Donna Brazile
October 16, 2014 -- Updated 0429 GMT (1229 HKT)
At some 7 billion people, the world can sometimes seem like a crowded place. But if the latest estimates are to be believed, then in less than a century it is going to feel even more so -- about 50% more crowded, says Evan Fraser
October 20, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Paul Callan says the Ebola situation is pointing up the need for better leadership
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2245 GMT (0645 HKT)
Nurses are the unsung heroes of the Ebola outbreak. Yet, there are troubling signs we're failing them, says John Sutter
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 1700 GMT (0100 HKT)
Dean Obeidallah says it's a mistake to give up a business name you've invested energy in, just because of a new terrorist group
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 2301 GMT (0701 HKT)
Fear of Ebola is contagious, writes Mel Robbins; but it's time to put the disease in perspective
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1744 GMT (0144 HKT)
Oliver Kershaw says that if Big Tobacco is given monopoly of e-cigarette products, public health will suffer.
October 18, 2014 -- Updated 1335 GMT (2135 HKT)
Stop thinking your job will make you happy.
October 15, 2014 -- Updated 0208 GMT (1008 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says it's time to deal with another scandal involving the Secret Service — one that leads directly into the White House.
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 1125 GMT (1925 HKT)
Americans who choose to fight for militant groups or support them are young and likely to be active in jihadist social media, says Peter Bergen
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1303 GMT (2103 HKT)
Stephanie Coontz says 11 years ago only one state allowed same sex marriage. Soon, some 60% of Americans will live where gays can marry. How did attitudes change so quickly?
October 14, 2014 -- Updated 2004 GMT (0404 HKT)
Legalizing assisted suicide seems acceptable when focusing on individuals. But such laws would put many at risk of immense harm, writes Marilyn Golden.
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 1307 GMT (2107 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says the issues are huge, but both parties are wrestling with problems that alienate voters
October 13, 2014 -- Updated 2250 GMT (0650 HKT)
Mel Robbins says the town's school chief was right to cancel the season, but that's just the beginning of what needs to be done
October 11, 2014 -- Updated 1543 GMT (2343 HKT)
He didn't discover that the world was round, David Perry writes. So what did he do?
ADVERTISEMENT