Skip to main content

Congressman a kissing hypocrite

By Peggy Drexler
April 9, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Peggy Drexler: Freshman Rep. Vance McAllister caught in video kissing congressional staffer
  • She says he ran on platform of Christian conservatism, family values. Hypocrisy will hurt him
  • She says meanwhile staffer is out of job, but McAllister not resigning
  • Drexler: A poll says voters think abuse of power worse than infidelity. McAllister guilty of both

Editor's note: Peggy Drexler is the author of "Our Fathers, Ourselves: Daughters, Fathers, and the Changing American Family" and "Raising Boys Without Men." She is an assistant professor of psychology at Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University and a former gender scholar at Stanford University. Join her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @drpeggydrexler. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- When is a kiss not just a kiss? When it's a political undoing. On Monday, a Louisiana newspaper posted a video showing freshman Louisiana Rep. Vance McAllister, a conservative Christian and married father of five, in an extended passionate kiss. In his government office. With someone other than his wife.

That someone, congressional staffer Melissa Hixon Peacock, also happens to be married, to a high school pal and campaign donor of McAllister's, in fact. According to payroll records, says Politico, she started working for McAllister the day after he won his seat.

Megachurch pastor resigns

Her husband, Heath Peacock, said McAllister "has wrecked my life" and that he and his wife are "headed for divorce." He also claimed that, by the way, McAllister faked his devotion to religion to win votes.

2009: Gov. Sanford: I've been unfaithful

Certainly, it wasn't the most strategic of office affairs.

Though a recent Quinnipiac poll reported that it is politicians' abuse of power, more than their (increasingly exposed) extramarital activities, that turns off voters, by hiring a family friend on the taxpayers' dime and then getting romantic with her at the office, McAllister seems to have accomplished both.

Congressman caught kissing staffer

But the bigger problem the congressman faces, and what could well lead to his downfall, is hypocrisy. People may forgive romantic indiscretions, but it can be harder to make them—or potential opponents—forget religious ones. McAllister, who had no previous political experience, ran on a platform of "faith and family," touting his 16-year marriage, five children, and pre-church Sunday breakfasts.

He described himself as a "true conservative" and called on endorsements from family members of A&E's popular and extremely socially conservative "Duck Dynasty" — the men among them known for being anti-gay and, as it happens, anti-adultery. McAllister invited Willie Robertson, the star of the show, to accompany him to the State of the Union address in January.

In at least one campaign ad, he asked voters to pray for him. Said Heath Peacock, "He broke out the religious card and he's about the most nonreligious person I know." But it apparently helped; he won.

Meanwhile, who is out of a job? Melissa Peacock. News reports say that she was "removed from the payroll" within the 24 hours after their embrace was exposed. While "there's no ethics rule that says you can't make out with your staffer," as the National Journal pointed out, House Ethics rules do require members to "conduct themselves at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House," and it's possible McAllister will face an ethics investigation. In 2010, House Speaker John Boehner asked Indiana Rep. Mark Souder to resign after Souder admitted an affair with a staffer in his district office.

McAllister has apologized for the indiscretion, sort of, but said he has no plans to resign. In fact, he said, he'll run for re-election next fall. That's not exactly an act of contrition; he seems more sorry he was caught than for damaging the public trust. Though certainly it takes two to tango, as they say—and we don't yet know details, including how the relationship started, or even if it has stopped — it's clear McAllister has different rules for himself than for others. And that for a guy with scant political experience, he felt plenty comfortable with using his position (and his office) for personal gain.

If he runs again, at the very least, he might want to rethink that whole "faith, family and hard work" message the next time around.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT