Former Rep. Gary Hart (D-CO) – Miami Picture

Former Rep. Gary Hart (D-CO)

517 6th St. SE…
Gary Hart (born Gary Warren Hartpence, November 28, 1936) is an American politician, lawyer, author, professor and commentator. He formerly served as a Democratic Senator representing Colorado (1975–1987), and ran in the U.S. presidential elections in 1984 and again in 1988, when he was considered a frontrunner for the Democratic nomination until various news organizations reported that he was engaged in an extramarital affair. Since retiring from the Senate, he has emerged as a consultant on national security, and continues to speak on a wide range of issues, including the environment and homeland security. In 2001, he earned a doctorate in politics from Oxford. In 2006, Hart accepted an endowed professorship at the University of Colorado at Denver. He also serves as Chairman for Council for a Livable World. He has written or co-authored numerous books and articles, including four novels, two under the pen name John Blackthorn.
Hart declined to run for re-election to the Senate, leaving office when his second term expired with the intent of running for president again. In January 1987, he was the clear frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the 1988 election.

The Donna Rice affair/scandal:
Hart officially declared his candidacy on April 13, 1987. Rumors began circulating nearly immediately that Hart was having an extramarital affair. In an interview that appeared in the New York Times on May 3, 1987, Hart responded to the rumors by daring the press corps: "Follow me around. I don’t care. I’m serious. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’ll be very bored." The Miami Herald had been investigating Hart’s womanizing for weeks before the "dare" appeared in the New York Times. Two reporters from the Miami Herald had staked out his residence and observed an attractive young woman leaving Hart’s Washington, D.C., townhouse on the evening of May 2. The Herald published the story on May 3, the same day Hart’s dare appeared in print, and the scandal spread rapidly through the national media. Hart and his allies attacked the Herald for rushing the story into print, claiming that it had unfairly judged the situation without finding out the facts. Hart claimed that the reporters had not watched both entrances to his home and could not have seen when the young woman entered and left the building. The Miami Herald reporter had flown to Washington, D.C. on the same flight as the woman, identified as Donna Rice. Hart was dogged with questions regarding his views on marital infidelity. In public, his wife, Lee, supported him, claiming the relationship with the young woman was innocent. A poll of voters in New Hampshire for the New Hampshire Primary showed that Hart’s support had dropped in half, from 32% to 17%, placing him suddenly ten points behind Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis.

On May 5, the Herald received a further tip that Hart had spent a night in Bimini on a yacht called the Monkey Business with a woman who was not his wife. The Herald obtained photographs of Hart aboard the Monkey Business with then-29-year-old model Donna Rice, sitting on Hart’s lap. The photographs were subsequently published in the National Enquirer. On May 8, 1987, a week after the story broke, Hart dropped out of the race. At a press conference, he lashed out at the media, saying "I said that I bend, but I don’t break, and believe me, I’m not broken." A Gallup Poll found that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of the U.S. respondents it surveyed thought the media treatment of Hart was "unfair." A little over half (53 percent) responded that marital infidelity had little to do with a president’s ability to govern.

Not everyone was impressed with Hart’s diatribe against the press. Television writer Paul Slansky noted that Hart had tried to deflect blame from himself for his downfall to the media, and that he offered no apology to betrayed supporters who now suddenly had to find other candidates to back. To many observers, the press conference was redolent of Richard Nixon’s "Last Press Conference" of November 7, 1962, in which Nixon blamed the media for his loss in the 1962 California gubernatorial election. Hart, in fact, received a letter from Nixon himself commending him for "handling a very difficult situation uncommonly well"

In December 1987, Hart returned to the race, declaring "Let’s let the people decide!" He competed in the New Hampshire primary and received 4,888 votes, approximately four percent. After the Super Tuesday contests on March 8, he withdrew from the campaign a second time.

Image published by dbking on 2009-01-02 23:04:44 and used under Creative Commons license.

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