My problem with the Ensign scandal is not that there was cheating involved. I mean, for the most part, I don’t consider adultery on the part of public figures to be my business. Adultery happens; people screw up. Sometimes your marriage is a little on the rocks and you have a slip and your spouse can forgive you. Sometimes your marriage is already about things other than sexual and romantic love, so you can allow for some extramarital sex and romance. Sometimes, you and your spouse are completely in love and are great together, but s/he has this little problem with his/her pants zipper, and while it might anger you, you still want to be married to him. I only consider it my business if those public figures have spoken out against other people’s adultery, which Senator Ensign did, during the Clinton scandal, although, to be fair, he hadn’t started his affair with Cynthia Hampton yet, so maybe, when he said it, he was clean. Or if those public figures have spoken out about how gay people are not moral enough for the sanctity of marriage while being straight adulterers.
But really, so many public figures who have called out other adulterers and objected to same-sex marriage have turned out adulterous themselves (sometimes with same-sex partners) that at this point it’s hardly going to make me bat an eye.
The legal trouble regarding the scandal is mostly going to be about illegal lobbying contracts and the like. This is also not my main area of concern. Yes, it’s wrong, and yes, it’s illegal, but I feel like this kind of stuff happens all the time and usually with little done about it. So while I understand that all the lobbying stuff is shady, unethical, and illegal (and it’s always nice when the things that are unethical are also illegal, and vice versa), my dander is not up about that.
My dander is up because I keep hearing Cynthia Hampton referred to as Senator Ensign’s mistress. And from everything I’m reading, I’m not sure that’s the word for it.
Here are the facts of what happened: Cynthia Hampton and Darlene Ensign were best buds in high school and remained best buds. Cynthia Hampton was a bridesmaid in Darlene and John Ensign’s wedding. Through the years, the two families were very close. Eventually, John Ensign encouraged the Hamptons to move from California to Nevada so they could live in the same neighborhood, a neighborhood the Hamptons could ill afford. So the Ensigns helped them out. Then the Hampton kids and the Ensign kids wanted to go to school together, because they were all close in age and good friends. But the Hamptons couldn’t afford the private school the Ensign kids were going to. So the Ensigns helped them out. Then Cynthia Hampton worked for Senator Ensign’s campaign, and then his PAC. Then Senator Ensign essentially created a position for Doug Hampton to work for him, too. Then there was a break-in in the Hampton home and the Hamptons went to live with the Ensigns for a little while. That’s when Ensign made his move. Cynthia said no, several times, but eventually capitulated. Despite fears about her job, the affair continued. Doug Hampton discovered the affair on Christmas. They promised the affair would end and all had Christmas together. A few months later, it hadn’t ended. Doug Hampton decided he would no longer work for Senator Ensign. (It’s not clear to me at what point Cynthia Hampton decided she would no longer be working for Senator Ensign.) Doug Hampton and Senator Ensign decided that Doug Hampton would go work for a lobbying firm (totally illegal!) and that Senator Ensign would set him up with clients (totally illegal!) so that his salary would match what he’d been making while working for Senator Ensign. When that didn’t happen fast enough for Doug Hampton, Doug Hampton alerted Fox News. And thus the scandal broke.
Now, I know it takes two to tango, and I know she’s not pressing rape charges, so I suppose at some point, she said “Yes.” And I guess I can even imagine that maybe part of her wanted to for her own sake. He was a long-time friend, he’s good-looking, I have to guess he’s charismatic since he got elected to the Senate. But even if she did feel an attraction at some level, she didn’t really have many options. Senator Ensign held the financial well-being of her whole family in his hands, and, furthermore, he was completely enmeshed in her life. Sure, things ended as disastrously as they possibly could have. But I could imagine that in her head, just saying “Yes” and hoping he’d be satisfied and go away might have seemed like a better idea than quitting her job, telling her husband, telling her best friend, explaining to her kids why she was pulling them out of the school they loved and away from their lives they knew. I mean, she ended up having to do that anyway. But no one ever thinks they’re going to get caught. Even when they are obviously going to get caught.
My point is, I’m not comfortable calling her his mistress. Mistresses have to be willing. And while she was not unwilling to the point where I’m totally comfortable calling him a rapist, I think the news media could come up with another way of referring to her.
Meanwhile, her husband is a real piece of work. First, I think he was encouraging her to take things from the Ensigns, like the tuition payments and the fancy vacations with them, because he was a social climber who liked rubbing elbows with muckety-mucks like the Ensigns. But even more than that, if it’s true that Cynthia Hampton was able to be coerced into an affair, directly or indirectly, because of Senator Ensign’s financial hold over the family, wouldn’t you, were you her husband, make every effort to not be in a financial bind to him anymore? Instead of (illegally) taking a job with a lobbying group he arranged (illegally) and then demanding that he (illegally) get you more lucrative contracts? Even if the affair had been completely consensual with no compromises, and your wife was totally into it and not doing it to maintain the status quo of your family, would you want to continue to be financially dependent on the guy who was fucking your wife? What’s wrong with you? And he describes himself as “Christ like” (sic on the lack of hyphen) in his dealings with Senator Ensign post-affair. Right before demanding more money. So I guess the one good thing for Cynthia Hampton is that she doesn’t have to be married to this enormous pile of shit anymore.
Thanks to Scott G. for arguing with me about this all week!