American presidents (including Trump) and sex scandals, a habit?

Was Donald Trump guilty of falsifying accounting documents to hide a payment to Stormy Daniels? The former porn star revealed, in the middle of the 2016 presidential campaign, that she had a sexual relationship ten years earlier with the Republican candidate. The latter then allegedly tried to buy his silence via 130,000 dollars disguised in legal fees, for a relationship that he denies. A New York State court is looking into the issue starting this Monday and for many weeks. This is the first time that an American president has been dragged into a criminal court. But this is not the first time that an American president has been involved in sex scandals.

Donald Trump himself has other allegations of affairs. Not to mention the famous recording “Acces Hollywood”, released in the middle of the campaign in 2016, where the then Republican candidate indicates that when you are a star, women “let you do everything”. “You can grab them by the pussy”

Careers destroyed or almost

In the register, the Bill Clinton affair holds a special place. Well, business… business. Monica Lewinsky affair, Paula Jones affair, Juanita Broaddrick affair, Gennifer Flowers affair… There is no shortage of cases surrounding the former president, sometimes very different of course. The best known is of course the first, “which almost cost him his career and his presidency,” recalls political scientist and specialist in the United States Nicole Bacharan.

As a reminder, the American president, at the time in office, was accused of having had sexual relations with a White House intern, Monica Lewinsky. Bill Clinton denied it for many months before having to make an act of contrition on television in front of millions of Americans. A dismissal procedure was initiated, which failed.

“A weapon of political warfare”

And then John Kennedy is known to have had numerous “affairs” with women other than Jacqueline Kennedy. Finally, “known”: we only knew about it after his death. “Kennedy had practices that would be intolerable today but no one knew it publicly,” recalls Nicole Bacharan. Journalists and their bosses thought it wasn’t something publishable. »

America in the 1960s was not necessarily less careful about the morals of its leaders. But this type of information was not yet seen as “a weapon of political warfare”. It was in 1988 that this changed: Gary Hart, former senator from Colorado, was the big favorite in the Democratic primary. He is even the favorite in the presidential election… He will not even make it to the end of the primaries. At issue: an affair of adultery, which he denies, before photos are revealed.

men of power

“The puritanical moral tradition of the United States means that sexual affairs are more used by the media, and especially rivals, as tools to publicly demolish an adversary,” notes Nicole Bacharan. And if it continued, it’s because it’s damn effective. Since then, there have been many, at various levels of power. In the form of revelation of adultery or revelation of homosexuality of conservative Republican elected officials. In 1992, Bill Clinton faced the same type of attack as Gary Hart four years earlier with the Gennifer Flowers revelations. They will not have the same effect… because the allegations of adultery could not be proven until much later.

“The fact that these are men of power is central in all these cases,” says Nicole Bacharan. When we have power, we perhaps allow ourselves more things. “We see it clearly in areas other than politics, when we have power in the cinema for example,” adds the political scientist. In politics, presidents “are quickly surrounded only by courtiers and have difficulty admitting contradiction”.

Let us nevertheless note that each time, whether it is the Gary Hart affair, the Lewinsky affair or even the Stormy Daniels affair, it is lying, perjury or obstruction of justice which seem to be the most accused of. This is, according to Nicole Bacharan, the sign of great American hypocrisy: “At the time of the Lewinsky affair, which seemed to be the end of the world, I drew the conclusion that the question of lying was a horrible pretext to say ”but no, we are not horrible puritans who punish adultery extremely harshly, it’s just about respecting the rules”. »

European morals

Sex scandals or sexual violence in politics are of course not an “American” phenomenon. The Old Continent has its share. But it is clear that they are treated very differently. In Italy, the various cases which affected Silvio Berlusconi, such as the Ruby affair, more accompanied than caused his downfall, when he was already very unpopular. In France, during the Griveaux affair for example, the reactions of the political class were more those of compassion for a competitor who had fallen into a trap than of the denunciation of a minister frivolous enough to send a video of a sexual nature to his teacher.

But the most symbolic case is undoubtedly that of the Dominique Strauss-Kahn affair, in 2011. At the time, part of the French political class had precisely denounced American “puritanism” in the early days. “Those who said that undoubtedly wanted to make it clear that in France, he would have gotten away with it. Which is probably true, scathes Nicole Bacharan. DSK’s behavior was known in France and in fact, it was his visit to the United States that was fatal to him. »

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