In June 2009, Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) announced at a press conference that in the previous year he had “violated the vows” of his marriage by carrying on an affair with one of his campaign staffers, who was married to one of his Senate staffers. It was later revealed that Ensign had his parents pay the couple $96,000 and arranged for his former legislative assistant, Doug Hampton, “to join a political consulting firm and lined up several donors as his lobbying clients.” Ensign and his staff then “repeatedly intervened on the companies’ behalf with federal agencies, often after urging from Mr. Hampton.”
In an interview with RNC Chairman Michael Steele taped this week for “Face to Face With Jon Ralston,” Ralston asked Steele if he would be “outraged” if “a Democratic senator had an affair with a staffer, had his parents pay her off, fired both her and her husband who worked for him and then tried to get the husband jobs.” First, Steele claimed he didn’t know who Ralston was talking about. But when Ralston said it was Ensign, Steele said it didn’t have an “opinion” on it because he “wasn’t chairman of the party at the time all that took place”:
STEELE: I don’t know. Who is, who is the individual you’re talking about?
RALSTON: The individual happens to be John Ensign. I was just putting the shoe on the other foot. You haven’t said anything about John Ensign because he’s one of yours. You’re Mr. Double Standard.
RALSTON: You are.
STEELE: Is that how you take that?
RALSTON: I’m asking ya.
STEELE: I wasn’t chairman of the party at the time all that took place so I have no opinion on it.
RALSTON: What are you talking about? It took place last year.
STEELE: I wasn’t chairman of the party.
Unless Steele is somehow claiming that the scandal doesn’t concern him because he wasn’t chairman while the actual affair was happening, his statement is absolutely ridiculous. Steele was elected RNC chairman on Jan. 30, 2009. Ensign admitted his affair on June 16, 2009, and the New York Times reported on the potential ethical problems of his efforts to get Hampton a job on Oct. 1, 2009.
Steele hasn’t always acted as though the Ensign scandal preceded him. In July 2009, he dismissed Ensign’s scandal as “old news, old-school.” Additionally, this isn’t the first time that Steele has tried to downplay controversy by re-writing the time line of his chairmanship. Last week, he claimed that he wrote his new book before he was chairman, despite making multiple references in the book to events that happened during his chairmanship.