Ensign spoke carefully on past scandals

Sen. John Ensign’s (R-Nev.) extramarital affair has been public for less than 24 hours, but he’s been complicating the damage-control process for himself for more than a decade.
 
Ensign, who announced Tuesday that he had engaged in an affair with a campaign staffer last year, has been one of the most outspoken senators in the country when it comes to infidelity. A member of the Promise Keepers ministry for born-again Christians, Ensign has often been out front in condemning others who have engaged in extramarital affairs.
 
ADVERTISEMENT
At the same time, Ensign’s past comments do provide him some wiggle room in his current controversy.
 
When President Bill Clinton was discovered to have had an affair with intern Monica Lewinsky in 1998, Ensign was the first member of Nevada’s congressional delegation to call for his resignation.
 
“He has no credibility left,” Ensign told the Las Vegas Review-Journal at the time.
 
But Ensign, who was then a House member challenging Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), could argue that he was referring to the lying about the affair more than the affair itself.
 
“Think about it: He [Clinton] sent taxpayer-paid staff out to lie for him, and that is a misuse of office,” Ensign said at the time.
 
Ensign also called for then-Sen. Larry Craig’s (R-Idaho) resignation after Craig was arrested and pleaded guilty to soliciting sex in a Minneapolis airport bathroom in 2007.
 
Ensign told CNN that, “if he loved the Senate and his party, he would keep his word” and resign.
 
"There's too many people that paint with a broad brush that we're all corrupt, we're all amoral," Ensign said. "And having these kinds of things happen, whether it's a Republican or Democratic senator — we certainly have had plenty of Democratic scandals in the past — we need people who are in office who will hold themselves to a little higher standard."
 
In explaining the reason he hadn’t called for Sen. David Vitter’s (R-La.) resignation a year earlier, Ensign said it was because Craig admitted to a crime while Vitter admitted his mistake.
 
“He [Craig] had admitted guilt — guilt to something that I thought was not only embarrassing to himself and his family, but also to the whole United States Senate,” he told ABC’s "This Week" in September 2007.
 
He added: “That is a big difference between being accused of something and actually admitting guilt to actually committing a crime. David Vitter never did that. Larry Craig did. A big difference.”
 
Ensign was not as outspoken when former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) and New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) admitted to their marital indiscretions last year.