Slander tests mettle: Except for guilty politicians

By Christina Hazelwood
Staff Writer

There is a Chinese Proverb that says, “Slander cannot destroy an honest man — when the flood recedes the rock is there.”
In the short term, slander can be disastrous. It can ruin one’s reputation and cause economic and emotional hardship as a person’s associates withdraw their support. Slander can cause a person to lose their livelihood, relationships and standing within the community.
But if one is honest to the end, the truth will eventually be revealed. The slandered person will be discovered to be honest and their associates will have a change of heart and mind and one’s standing in the community may be returned. Although by the time ‘the rock’ is revealed, a great deal of damage and change may have occurred.
Slander can be the test of one’s mettle. Slander forces the innocent accused to stand true and fast to their values, to rise above what is said about them and stand firm in their beliefs with courage and conviction.
My mettle has been tested in this way many times. The process is quite painful. The slandered innocent must witness the gyrations of others who jockey for position. Not only does one have to stand firm in one’s own convictions while all around you criticize, express doubt or flee, one is also forced to see the subsequent betrayals that occur by people the slandered previously thought were true and loyal friends. Every slanderous act takes a bite out of one’s faith in humanity.
Many public figures claim they have been slandered when their irreverent acts are revealed. The usual response is, “I was framed!” Those whose salacious acts are uncovered often claim slander. They attempt to make themselves innocent victims and label the whistleblowers evil villains, rather than the courageous heroes they actually are. It takes courage to call out and point out an unseemly act. To do so is to set oneself up as a target by the accused who will inevitable attempt to turn the tables.
Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner claimed in a televised statement May 30, 2011, that his Twitter account had been hacked when a young woman received a sexually suggestive photo from him. Website editor and commentator Andrew Breitbart broke the story posting a shirtless photo of Weiner that was sent to a Texas woman. The senator initially claimed that Breitbart’s information was false and numerous media outlets jumped on the bandwagon. Pressure from members of congress and other Weiner associates eventually persuaded Weiner to tell the truth and he resigned his Democratic seat on June 21.
On June 18, 2009, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford “disappeared.” After telling his staff he would be hiking the Appalachian Trail, Sanford disconnected from his family, security guards and chief of staff. After Father’s Day came and went with Sanford’s whereabouts still unknown by his wife and four boys, Lieutenant Governor Andre Bauer became concerned and announced his disappearance to the press.
On June 24, 2009, the Republican governor held a press conference in which he admitted he had been having an affair with a woman from Buenos Aires, Argentina and subsequently reimbursed the federal government for the cost of the “hiking” trip.
Sanford’s wife, Jenny, filed for a divorce and was granted one on Feb. 26, 2010. She wrote a book entitled, “Staying True” that was published the same month. Although impeachment proceedings were started, they were never carried out. Sanford remained in office until the end of his term on Jan. 12, 2011.
North Carolina Senator John Edwards, who ran for president in 2004 and 2008, was indicted June 6, 2011, for spending almost a million dollars in campaign funds to hide his mistress and their baby. The Democratic candidate, who polls showed had a good chance of winning the presidential election, suspended his campaign on Jan. 30, 2008, after much negative publicity.
In October 2007 “The National Enquirer” reported that Edwards had an affair with former campaign worker, Rielle Hunter, which Edwards denied. The report was largely ignored by media outlets because of the tabloid’s poor reputation for factual reporting.
After several similar news reports surfaced, Edwards admitted to ABC News reporter Bob Woodruff in an Aug. 8, 2008, interview that he had the affair, but continued the planned charade that his campaign aide Andrew Young fathered Hunter’s child. After continued media scrutiny and admissions by those involved, Edwards finally owned up on Jan. 21, 2010, confessing that he was the father of Frances Quinn Hunter.
Edwards faces six felony charges including conspiracy, making false statements and collecting illegal campaign contributions. His trial is set for October 2011. A conviction could result in up to 30 years in prison and a $1.5 million fine.
The 42nd U.S. Democratic President Bill Clinton was impeached by the Republican-controlled House of Representatives for perjury and obstruction of justice over his testimony about a sexual relationship he had with white house intern Monica Lewinsky. The Democratic-controlled Senate acquitted Clinton and he completed his second term as president.
Clinton’s relationship was uncovered as the result of two investigations. The first was on the Whitewater scandal in which Clinton and his wife, Hillary, who is currently the U.S. Secretary of State, were involved in a business venture with Jim and Susan McDougal. Questions surrounding the failed real estate deal first appeared in the media in March 1992. Jim had a history of creating dummy corporations and using them to loot federal funds. In an April 22, 1994 press conference, Hillary addressed questions about the scandal, claiming innocence and ignorance. Jim was convicted on 18 felonies. His wife was convicted of fraud and later pardoned.
The second investigation was the result of a lawsuit filed by Paula Jones on May 6, 1994, against President Clinton for sexual harassment. The case resulted in a landmark decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, establishing that a sitting U.S. president has no immunity from civil law litigation for acts committed prior to taking office. The suit was eventually dismissed and Clinton agreed to pay Jones $79,999 in a settlement.
Clinton made false statements in depositions on the case, saying that he did not have sexual relations with Lewinsky when he, in fact, had. He also argued about the definition of the word “is.” Ironically Edwards was part of the legal team in the Clinton case, responsible for taking some of the depositions. Facing disbarment by the Arkansas Supreme Court, Clinton resigned his law license November 9, 2001.
At the time of the Clinton scandals in 1994 to 2001, the French, who gave us the Statue of Liberty, generally thought Americans were making much ado about nothing. At the time, the French took philandering in stride, especially when it involved politicians. But, as of 2011, even the tolerant French have drawn a line in the sand. Or maybe their sentiment changed, now that the philandering is hitting closer to home.
French women took to the streets May 23, 2011, protesting misogynistic remarks made by French public figures about the arrest of French economist and managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, who was arrested May 14, at the Kennedy International Airport in New York. Strauss-Kahn, a French presidential candidate well known for his sexual escapades, has been charged with criminal sexual assault for allegedly attacking a maid at the posh Sofitel hotel he was staying at.
Although few dispute that sexual contact occurred, Kahn’s legal defense team claims the act was consensual, that the 32-year-old maid has a questionable history and is after monetary gain. In other words, “I was framed!” It’s the accuser who is up to no good, not sweet, innocent me.
As the Chinese proverb goes, if Strauss-Kahn is innocent, his “honesty” will be proven. But given the track record of Western civilization’s choice in political leaders, once the flood subsides we’re unlikely to find a steadfast rock and more likely to find a puff of smoke and a cracked mirror.

Christina Hazelwood’s e-mail address is

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