RONZONE: A public affair

Raquel Ronzone

“I’ve been dreaming all day about having you all to myself for three days. Relaxing, laughing, talking, sleeping and making love.”

Months after Valentine’s Day, Americans have kindled the flame of passion with such sentiments, ensuring that the fire burns brightly throughout the year.

Passion like that warms the hearts of lovers faithfully committed to each other but sears the reputations of adulterous politicians who recklessly make sport of it. Recent events have compelled media-savvy Americans to scrutinize the palpable closeness between libido and the law.

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick is responsible for that unabashed proclamation of desire, one of a number of racy text messages sent from his city-issued pager during a two-month period in 2002 and 2003.

Once known as America’s first “hip-hop mayor” for his excessive lifestyle, Kilpatrick is now the subject of public scorn for his illicit involvement with his former chief of staff, Christine Beatty.

Kilpatrick, a husband and a father, swore under oath that he did not have an affair with Beatty, divorcee and mother, but the discovery of suggestive messages from the mayor to his staff member contested his previous statement.

Perhaps more telling than the messages themselves are the ways in which the philanderer Kilpatrick tried to conceal his lustful ways.

Rumors of other improprieties emerged in 2002. Kilpatrick had served in office for about four months when sources stated that the mayoral mansion was the site of a party involving a stripper, and Harold Nelthrope, one of Kilpatrick’s bodyguards, reported that the mayor’s personal police force was reckless, crashing cars and working excessive hours.

Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown investigated the claim that the mayor used his security unit to cover up his misdeeds, and his decision to do so jeopardized the secrecy of the alleged adultery.

Brown was fired two weeks after the start of his investigation.

One month later, Brown and Nelthrope took legal action against Kilpatrick and the city of Detroit. They filed a whistleblower lawsuit that came to trial last year.

The lawsuit was “settled.” Kilpatrick offered $9 million in exchange for the erasure of the text messages.

The technological evidence, however, surfaced when The Detroit Press gained access to it in January.

The public then began to piece together the history of philandering and lying to which Kilpatrick and Beatty resorted.

The first Detroit mayor charged with a crime while in office faces eight charges, including perjury (a felony), obstruction of justice, conspiracy to obstruct justice and wrongdoing in office. Conviction on all charges will result in an 80-year sentence.

Beatty faces the accusation of perjury as well, a charge with a 15-year sentence.

Men and women in commanding public offices have maintained a curious familiarity with sexual misconduct. Think of the names in recent headlines – New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey – and those throughout history – Catherine the Great of Russia, Representative Katherine Bryson of Utah and President Bill Clinton.

The list continues, spanning decades and countries, and with each addition, the community denounces their leaders for immodesty.

Politicians, representatives of the people, do have less of a private occupation, but the resounding truth is that they are members of the same society as the citizens who elected them.

Accordingly, those in office face the same challenges and responsibilities as those outside it.

Neither group is exempt from the set of societal expectations concerning sexual morality, mainly monogamy.

Some people dismiss monogamy as unrealistic, but an article published in U.S. News and World Report in the wake of Spitzer and Kilpatrick’s dalliances reports Americans’ strong attraction toward it.

Eighty percent of modern Americans believe that infidelity is “always wrong,” compared to the 70 percent in 1970. Almost all participants in the survey, 99 percent of them, say they expect fidelity from their spouses.

The fact that researchers had to conduct a study to show Americans’ preference for monogamy can seem obvious or even unnecessary, but despite the overwhelming idealization of monogamy, not all romantic relationships (involving politicians as well as citizens) exemplify it.

The statistics, then, state that we are not even living up to our own ethical standards, a reality that is more relevant and disgraceful than any newspaper headlines.


Raquel Ronzone is a freshman from Philadelphia, Pa. She can be reached at [email protected].