Politicians Who Treated Their Significant Others Like Trash

It's (hopefully) the goal of every politician who ever runs for office to strengthen the community under their jurisdiction, promoting peace and equality while providing opportunities for all. Regardless of party affiliation, these individuals have strong ideas about how to make the U.S. flourish, how to treat it with care, and how to elevate the lives of their constituents. Unfortunately, there are some politicians who don't transfer these high-minded intentions into their personal lives. Rather than cherishing and nurturing their relationships, treating their partners with love and thoughtfulness, they act disrespectfully toward them, and even, occasionally, go so far as to treat their significant others like trash.

When we talk about politicians who have treated their partners horribly, there are likely a number of names that jump to mind straightaway — Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Eliot Spitzer, Arnold Schwarzenegger. But those big names are just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of other politicians (from all levels of government) who have behaved badly within the confines of their marriages or relationships. Below, we're telling the stories of 15 notable politicians who have treated their wives, girlfriends, and life partners incredibly poorly. Prepare to be outraged.

Bill Clinton

Let's start with perhaps the most notoriously awful political husband of all time: former president Bill Clinton. In the early '90s, Clinton, a former Arkansas governor, was hugely popular thanks to his centrist policies that appealed to both Republicans and hardcore Democrats. During his time in office, the economy experienced its longest peacetime expansion, NAFTA was enacted, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg was appointed to the Supreme Court. Unfortunately, many of his accomplishments were overshadowed by the 1997 revelation that he'd been having an ongoing affair with a White House intern named Monica Lewinsky.

According to a CNN timeline, Lewinsky and Clinton had been involved since at least 1995, shortly after she began working for the president. It wasn't until 1998 that news outlets began breaking the story, about six months after fellow White House staffer Linda Tripp began taping her conversations with Lewinsky, in which the twenty-something shared the details of her illicit relationship. Things picked up quickly after that — Clinton flat-out denied the affair, saying, "I did not have sexual relations with that woman," a trial began, and a few months later, Clinton was impeached.

Despite the drama and the pain he caused her, former secretary of state and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton stood by her man. The two have remained married to this day, and in the years since the affair, she has rarely spoken publicly about the incident. In a 2020 docuseries for Hulu, the former first lady did admit to being "so personally hurt" by the scandal.

Anthony Weiner

Bill wasn't the only member of the Clinton camp to be caught cheating. A little over a decade later, New York state congressman Anthony Weiner, who was married to one of Hillary Clinton's campaign staffers, Huma Abedin, was caught in a sexting scandal that rocked the country in the early 2010s. The drama began in May 2011 when a suggestive picture of Weiner's crotch made its way onto his Twitter feed (via the New York Post). The politician initially denied he had anything to do with the image, but less than a week later changed tack, revealing that the picture was both taken and sent by him and that he'd been in a number of online relationships. Over the next few years, the pattern would repeat itself — an outlet would get its hands on explicit photographs or messages sent by the politician, he'd deny having anything to do with them, then would ultimately admit to having engaged in inappropriate behavior.

Initially, Abedin stood by Weiner, telling the press, "I love him, I have forgiven him, I believe in him, and as I have said from the beginning, we are moving forward" (via CNN). Eventually, however, she changed her tune, and in 2016 (after Weiner sent a suggestive picture to a woman that featured his son), she announced she was leaving the former NYC mayoral candidate. Given the fact that Weiner was convicted of inappropriate sexual conduct with a minor in 2017, she certainly made the right decision. In 2021, during an interview with CBS "Sunday Morning," Abedin revealed that her (understandable) anger over the scandal her husband caused "almost killed [her]."

Eliot Spitzer

In 2008, New York governor Eliot Spitzer made global news when The New York Times revealed that he was involved with an online prostitution ring. Initially, it was believed that he had elicited the services of a sex worker just once, but as the drama unraveled, it became clear that he had been engaging in illegal behavior for years, and had spent as much as $80,000 on encounters with multiple women. His impropriety was especially shocking because he had been responsible for prosecuting two or more prostitution rings during his time as NY's Attorney General, and had come down quite harshly on them both.

Less than a week after the scandal broke, Spitzer resigned from his post as governor. With his wife Silda Spitzer by his side, the disgraced politician addressed reporters, saying, according to NPR, "The remorse I feel will always be with me." At the time, given his wife's visible support, it seemed that his marriage might weather the storm (Silda was reportedly as blindsided by the affair as the general public had been), and it did, for a time.

Five years later, in 2013, the couple finally called it quits. In a statement released through their spokeswoman on Christmas Eve, the couple said, "We regret that our marital relationship has come to an end. We have agreed not to make any other public statement on this subject" (via The New York Times). To this day, it remains the only public comment Silda has ever given on the situation; however, we're sure Eliot's public, expensive cheating likely had something to do with their breakup.

John Edwards

Another one-time Democrat darling, John Edwards, a North Carolina senator and two-time presidential nominee, saw his political career come crashing down when it was revealed just how poorly he treated his wife. In 2007, the National Enquirer published a story alleging that the politician had been having an affair with one of his campaign staffers for at least 18 months, while his wife was undergoing treatment for late-stage breast cancer. At the time, Edwards firmly held that the allegations were "false, absolute nonsense." However, investigative journalists — not convinced by his response, or by the mistress' statement that her relationship was actually with one of Edwards' aids (Andrew Young), and not the married candidate — proved that he had, in fact, been lying. Making matters worse, his mistress was pregnant and Edwards was the father.

The news was devastating for Edwards' wife Elizabeth, who, a witness said in court (via ABC News), "collapsed into a ball" upon learning that her husband had been unfaithful, and felt "mortified" and "humiliated." According to WRAL, she had left her own career in 1996 after her son was killed in a car accident. She then focused on her husband's politics, only to be repaid with John's indiscretions. In the end, Elizabeth separated from John, but she died before she could file for divorce. As for John, he was charged with six counts of misusing campaign funds (he allegedly spent over $900,000 of campaign money on covering up the affair), but was not found guilty on all parts due to one acquittal and a mistrial. Today, he co-parents his daughter with his former mistress, who described their relationship to ABC News as "family."

Anthony Martinelli

It's not just big-name, big party politicians who treat their partners badly — even lower-level community leaders make headlines for their shockingly inappropriate behavior. In October 2021, Des Moines, Washington, city council member Anthony Martinelli was arrested and charged with six domestic violence counts against his partner of several years (per K5). The abuses were physical, verbal, and emotional, including several instances of assault that took place while she was caring for the couple's child.

It's important to note that his partner, who has never been named in the press, eventually took the claims back, according to The Seattle Times, denying that the abuse ever happened. However, given the fact that two former partners of Martinelli's, one of them a member of the Burien, Washington city council, also alleged that Martinelli was abusive to them, it seems likely that his current partner only retracted her claims due to fears of retribution. Martinelli's response to the charges — he called the allegations "flimsy sh*t" and "a joke" when speaking to The Seattle Times — also feels like the reaction of a man who refuses to acknowledge that his behavior was hurtful and criminal.

Martinelli was taken off any committee assignments and was censured. As of January 2022, he was enrolled in a pretrial diversion program that may keep his case from ever being heard. After numerous cries for his resignation, the controversial politician stepped down from his post that same month.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Occasionally, a politician's poor treatment of their partner will fly under the radar for years, before it becomes public knowledge. Such was the case with Arnold Schwarzenegger. The day after the former California governor left office in 2011, it was revealed that he had previously been engaged in an affair with the family's housekeeper, Mildred Baena. The two crossed the line from employer and employee to something more in 1996, according to The U.S. Sun. Their brief dalliance resulted in the birth of a son, named Joseph, although his paternity wasn't revealed to Schwarzenegger for a number of years.

Two months after the relationship made national headlines, Maria Shriver, Schwarzenegger's wife of 25 years, filed for divorce. She had learned about the affair just before the public did, and many speculate that Schwarzenegger's unfaithfulness is what led to the couple's demise. Despite how clearly devastating the whole thing must have been for her, Shriver has really never spoken out about the scandal outside of one statement she made in 2011. She told Us Weekly, "This is a painful and heartbreaking time. As a mother, my concern is for the children. I ask for compassion, respect, and privacy as my children and I try to rebuild our lives and heal. I will have no further comment." For his part, Schwarzenegger admitted he was in the wrong, telling outlets, "...I take full responsibility for the hurt I have caused. I have apologized to Maria, my children and my family. I am truly sorry."

John F. Kennedy

Maria Shriver isn't the only member of the Kennedy dynasty to have dealt with infidelity — President John F. Kennedy famously had affairs with a number of women while married to Jackie Kennedy Onassis. Some of these affairs, like the years-long dalliance with Judith Exner, are well-documented and certain, while others, like the possible romance with Marilyn Monroe, have never been substantiated. People put together a complete list of women JFK is believed to have strayed with, coming up with six in total, from White House staffers to Washington, D.C., socialites. In 2021, yet another woman spoke up, writing for Air Mail that she had been involved with the former president when she was a student at Radcliffe College.

So how did the former first lady feel about her husband's frequent stepping out? According to one of her biographers, who spoke to People, "...She knew what was going on. She wasn't naïve to it. They did have many conversations about it, and she did tell him that she was sick of it and she didn't like it." While the infidelities did lead Jackie to consider divorcing JFK on multiple occasions, she never took that step because that normally wasn't what women did at the time. Another Jackie biographer told People, "She came from a world where that's what men did, and it was accepted."

Donald Trump

Like John F. Kennedy, former president Donald Trump has also had affairs over the years. Famously, his first marriage to Ivana Trump ended when his affair with model Marla Maples became public. According to a People story from that era, Trump and Maples had been secretly seeing each other for quite some time, and while Ivana knew about the relationship, and wasn't happy about it, she largely chose to ignore it. At least, until a 1989 trip to Aspen when she learned her husband had invited his mistress along. Following a confrontation at the top of a ski hill and a dramatic chase down the slopes, the couple filed for divorce, leaving Donald free to marry Maples.

That relationship didn't last either, and by 2005, Trump was remarried to his third wife, Melania Trump. Less than six months after the birth of their son, in 2006, Trump was allegedly having affairs with at least two women — adult film star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. We have to imagine the infidelity stung for Melania, but we can't know for sure because she's never really spoken out about the incident. The closest she's ever come is in an interview with ABC News where she told a reporter that media speculation was "not always pleasant" but that she has "much more important things to think about and to do."

Rudy Giuliani

Another Trump-era Republican who's seen at least one of his three marriages end in divorce thanks to a spouse's outrage over infidelity is Rudy Giuliani. In April 2018, Guliani and his wife, Judith Nathan, announced they were going their separate ways. At the time they didn't provide reasons as to the dissolution of their marriage, but Page Six revealed that Guliani had been having an affair with a hospital administrator named Maria Rosa Ryan. The former NYC mayor tried to defend his bad behavior to the outlet by saying he and his wife were "in effect separated," but Nathan countered, "My husband's denial of the affair with the married Mrs. Ryan is as false as his claim that we were separated when he took up with her."

Perhaps Nathan shouldn't have been as shocked by her husband's indiscretions as she was, given the fact that their own relationship allegedly began when Guliani was married to his first wife, Donna Hanover. As awfully as Guliani has treated his spouses over the years, this incident, in particular, stands out because he reportedly spent almost $300,000 over the course of six months on Ryan. It took a full year, and many more shocking financial revelations, before the couple's divorce was finalized in 2019.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

While many of the other politicians on our list have been divisive at best, Franklin D. Roosevelt was generally well-liked. But even his near-universal popularity didn't prevent him from being a bad husband — the Great Depression-era leader carried on a long, well-documented affair with a woman named Lucy Rutherfurd. He actually met Rutherfurd through his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, who employed her as a social secretary. It is believed that the president and the secretary began their affair in 1916, and were found out by Eleanor in 1918. According to one FDR biographer (via The New York Times), Eleanor was willing to end the marriage in divorce, but realizing that a public separation would ruin both of their lives, they remained married on Eleanor's specific conditions that FDR must quit his philandering ways and be booted from the marriage bed.

History nerds know that FDR stuck to the second rule, as his and Eleanor's marriage was not a romantic one, but rather a friendship/political partnership. However, he did not stop seeing Rutherfurd. The two snuck around together for years, and when FDR died in 1945, it was Rutherfurd, not Eleanor, who was by his side. It seems Rutherfurd wasn't the only woman the president was straying from his marriage with, either. The New York Post compiled a list of five women FDR was possibly involved with, at least emotionally, over the course of his life.

Aaron Coleman

Poor treatment of significant others knows no age limit, as demonstrated by Kansas State Representative Aaron Coleman. Elected at just 19, Coleman was making headlines around the Midwest in 2020, for all the wrong reasons. Journalists weren't writing about his historic win or progressive policies, but rather, about his history of poor and illegal treatment of his significant others. In middle school, a mere seven years before he won office, Coleman admitted on social media (and to the AP) that he'd been involved in a revenge porn scheme, blackmailing a young woman when she wouldn't share explicit images of herself with him. After the accusations came to light, Coleman acknowledged to another outlet, The Intercept, that his actions were "so horrendous." He also claimed that his "passionate platform" proved he was a changed man.

Unfortunately, it seems Coleman really hadn't changed at all. In August 2020, a recent ex-girlfriend of the State Representative came forward with claims that he had physically assaulted her the previous year. She shared text messages that corroborated her claims, and a friend backed up her version of events. Coleman's former partner hasn't formally pressed charges, but her alleged version of events, combined with facts from Coleman's past, make it clear that this politician has no concept of how to treat his romantic partners well.

Coleman was arrested in November 2021 for traffic violations. In January 2022, the Kansas Democratic Party moved to suspend Coleman for two years from the political party (via Fox 4). 

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

Amy Koch

Most of the offenders on our list are men, but that doesn't mean women aren't capable of treating their partners horribly. Take Amy Koch, for example. In 2011, the Minnesota politician was flying high, having become the first woman to serve as the Senate majority leader in her home state. But it all came crashing down in December of that year when it was revealed she had been engaged in an inappropriate relationship with one of her staffers, Michael Brodkorb. The details of the affair — including when it started and when, if ever, it ended — have remained murky over the intervening years, but we do know that the scandal cost Koch both her job and her marriage (via Twin Cities Pioneer Press).

Her affair and its repercussions have continued a conversation on women in power who engage in inappropriate relationships and extramarital affairs. Many of the men on this list, including Aaron Coleman and Donald Trump, managed to hold on to their political positions and reputations even when salacious details about the awful ways they've treated their partners came to light. Meanwhile, Koch lost face both personally and professionally, and her colleagues seem to have been the ones leaking details to the press. We're not attempting to justify Koch's behavior by any means, but her story does make an interesting point about misogyny. Koch herself spoke with PBS in the wake of former congresswoman Katie Hill's resignation scandal over an inappropriate relationship with a campaign staffer. Koch expressed that her own situation was not dealt with the same way that a man's indiscretions would be. "Yes, I think it would have gone down differently," she said.

Newt Gingrich

Despite his entire platform being built upon the idea of upholding America's moral values, Newt Gingrich could hardly be considered a family man. The former Republican congressman has cheated on not one, but two of his former wives. In a 2007 radio interview with conservative Christian thought leader James Dobson (via ABC News), Gingrich admitted that his relationship with his second wife, Marianne Ginther, began while he was still married to his first wife, Jackie Battley (who was his geometry teacher in high school). It wasn't the first affair he'd had during their 18-year marriage, but it was the one that drove them apart and allegedly led him to discuss divorce terms with Battley as she was hospitalized, recovering from cancer.

Then, several years into his marriage with Ginther, Gingrich began yet another affair, this time with a congressional aid named Callista Bisek. He maintained the relationship in privacy while publicly condemning then-President Bill Clinton for stepping out on his own wife. After Ginther found out about his indiscretions, Gingrich reportedly asked her for an open marriage, according to Ginther, who spoke to ABC News in 2012. When she rejected his proposal, the two split. Months after her multiple sclerosis diagnosis, Gingrich "moved for the divorce," as the outlet summarized. He, of course, would go on to marry Bisek and become the GOP's spokesman for upholding strong family values and principles.

Mark Sanford

In 2009, South Carolina governor Mark Sanford's office announced that he'd be out of reach for a few days because he was planning to hike the Appalachian Trail. In reality, the politician had flown to Argentina for a supposed business trip — on taxpayer money — to meet up with his mistress, a woman he'd met and fallen for years earlier. The lie wasn't designed to throw the public off his trail (at the time, his affair was not yet general knowledge), but to keep his wife, Jenny Sanford, from knowing his whereabouts. See, a few months earlier, Sanford's wife had learned of his affair when she found a bunch of letters, correspondances between the mistress and her husband. Sanford later wrote about it all in his book, "Two Roads Diverged" (via Business Insider). He and his then-wife had entered counseling and resolved to work through the issue, but Sanford, unsure of what he wanted to do, decided to go visit the other woman in order to figure it out.

Perhaps struggling with some guilt over his actions, Sanford called a press conference as soon as he re-entered the country, announcing both where he'd actually been and the fact that he'd committed adultery. At the time, his wife told CNN she "remain[ed] willing to forgive Mark completely for his indiscretions" (if he worked on himself), but by 2010 the couple had divorced. In 2018, Jenny remarried to a man she described to The New York Times as "a godsend." As for Sanford, he was briefly engaged to his Argentinian lover, but the two broke up before making it down the aisle, and he remains single as of this writing.

Bob Packwood

Bob Packwood spent his years in the U.S. Senate making a name for himself as a pro-woman, moderate Republican. He brought the first abortion legalization bill to the Senate and voted against the installment of Clarence Thomas in the Supreme Court, which made him popular among the female delegation and with Democrats. So when, in 1992, The Washington Post published a front-page story detailing the dozens of sexual harassment claims levied against the senator by women in his offices, the public was stunned. This simply didn't match with the man they thought they knew.

In 1995, hours following the Senate's vote to expel Packwood over the sheer number of accusations as well as damning evidence from his own diary, Packwood resigned from his position. That same year his former wife, Georgie Packwood — who had filed for divorce earlier in the '90s almost as soon as allegations against her husband became known — spoke out for the first time. She told a local Oregon newspaper, (via The Buffalo News), that she didn't know about Bob's infidelity. Georgie explained, "This shadow life made a mockery of my marriage, 25 of the prime years of my life (and) a mockery of Bob's dedication to equality for women." Talk about not holding back!

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Lyndon B. Johnson

What do presidents Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, John F. Kennedy, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Lyndon B. Johnson all have in common? They all cheated on their wives. While in office, Johnson was leading the country in fighting both the Cold War and the Vietnam War, but behind the scenes, he was involved in a third war with his wife, Claudia "Lady Bird" Taylor. Johnson is known to have had at least three affairs while married to Lady Bird, one with a woman named Alice Glass (his most enduring and notable extramarital relationship), one with California congresswoman Helen Douglas, and one with his secretary Mary Margaret Wiley. It's widely believed that Lady Bird knew about the affairs, and The Guardian claimed she was embarrassed by his indiscretions.

But these affairs weren't the only injustices Lady Bird had to suffer. According to Texas Monthly, which published a long feature about LBJ and Lady Bird's marriage, the former president was pretty beastly in his treatment of his wife in general. The outlet reports that LBJ "often treated [Lady Bird] as if she were invisible," telling embarrassing stories about her in public and acting demanding of her at home (he reportedly expected her to do everything for him from bringing him his coffee in bed daily to fixing dinners for his staff on short notice). He was also controlling and demeaning about her appearance, often asking her why she didn't look like other, more attractive women, and just generally treated her like trash.

Sean Parnell

In 2021, Sean Parnell was running for a Senate position in Pennsylvania. The Trump-backed candidate was a favorite in the competitive race, and a darling with GOP constituents, before domestic violence allegations derailed his campaign. It all came to light when Parnell had to appear in family court amid divorce proceedings from his now ex-wife Laurie Snell. According to Snell, Parnell had frequently been abusive to both her and her children, over the course of at least eight years. On two separate occasions before the family court appearance, Snell had filed for protective orders against Parnell and was now seeking full physical and legal custody of the couple's three children. Eventually, the judge granted her the request, ruling that Snell was "the more credible witness" (via The New York Times).

Eventually, Parnell — who flippantly told The Philadelphia Inquirer that the abuse never happened and said of his wife, "It just wasn't a good relationship" — was forced to suspend his campaign. However, not all has been lost for the former politician. His girlfriend, whom he allegedly began seeing while still very much married to Snell, has stood by his side. We're hopeful, for Snell's sake, that the divorce can be finalized quickly and she can move on to a happy life without a partner who treats her like trash.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.