O tempora. O mores.
CBS NEWS April 16, 2017, 9:27 AM
“If the Michelangelo is a bit scandalous, well, the princess is no stranger to scandal.”
November 28, 2011
Several months after I attended an office Christmas party at the home of Rep. John Jenrette (R-South Carolina) and Rita, Rita found $7,000 in cash in her husband’s custom-made shoe. Upon closer examination the closet contained $25,000 in hundred dollars bills.
When Rita found the money, she reported it to the police thus beginning media accounts of the Abscam scandal. In the wake of Watergate, Abscam was one of those scandals–like Koreagate— that failed to interest the public. A group of FBI agents, posing as Arab businessmen, had bribed several members of Congress and one senator. The bribed public servants were convicted. No one outside the Beltway cared. Following is Wikipedia’s account of how Rita’s husband reacted when offered a bribe.
“John Jenrette was one of the few who resigned before they were expelled from the House. During the operation, Jenrette was asked by an undercover FBI agent if he would take the bribe from the Sheikh. He replied, ‘I’ve got larceny in my blood. I’d take it in a goddamn minute.'”
Wikipedia on Rita Jenrette, whom I knew by her maiden name when we worked together at the Office of Technology Assessment (OTA) chaired by Senators Hubert Humphrey and Ted Kennedy:
“Rita Jenrette, born Rita Carpenter, November 25, 1949 in San Antonio, Texas is an American celebrity, actor, television journalist, and real estate executive. She is most famous for the interview she gave about her marriage to U.S. Representative John Jenrette following his conviction in the Abscam scandal and her accompanying semi-nude pictorial in Playboy magazine.
“In 1977, Jenrette worked as a research associate at the Office of Technology Assessment under the co-chairmanship of Senators Hubert H. Humphrey and Edward M. Kennedy. She co-authored a report, with Ray Hoehle, on the Food for Peace program, which was presented to the Presidential Commission on World Food Hunger….On September 10, 1976, she married freshman Democratic whip John Jenrette of South Carolina, 18 months after meeting him on Capitol Hill. She was also a Clairol model.
“Her husband, John, was convicted for taking a bribe during the Abscam investigation in October 1980. She appeared on the Phil Donahue Show and he called in live to join the conversation. At his trial she testified in her husband’s defense….She gave an interview to Playboy that appeared in the April 1981 issue, accompanied by a nude pictorial. The article’s revelation that she and her husband had sex on the steps of the U.S. Capitol during a break in an all-night House session caused a hoopla. She claimed that the couple were still “happily married” at the time the Playboy pictorial was photographed, although they had separated by the time it was published. The comedy group “Capitol Steps” takes its name from this escapade. Jenrette again appeared in Playboy in the May 1984 issue on the cover and in a pictorial.“
Abscam—sometimes written ABSCAM—was a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sting operationthat took place in the late 1970s and early 1980s that led to the convictions of seven members of the United States Congress, among others. The two-year investigation was directed from the FBI’s office in Hauppauge, New York, and was under the supervision of Assistant Director Neil J. Welch, who headed the bureau’s New York division, and Thomas P. Puccio, head of the Justice Department’s Organized Crime Strike Force for the Eastern District of New York. The operation initially targeted trafficking in stolen property and corruption of prestigious businessmen, but was later converted to a public corruption investigation. The FBI, aided by the Justice Department and a convicted con-man, videotaped politicians accepting bribes from a fraudulent Arabian company in return for various political favors.
I first met Rita in 1976 shortly after I had completed my second round of radiation treatment for Hodgkin’s disease, a cancer of the lymphatic system. I was anything but well, but did not realize I was unfit for the “real world” even though I was obliged to make a living.
To make money, I called David Schneiderman my editor on the op-ed section of the New York Times where my article on cancer had been well received. David arranged for me to write an article on food stamps for the News of the Week in Review Section. http://www.joelsolkoff.com/april-1976-new-york-times-article-on-food-stamps/
The article convinced a friend who worked for OTA to hire me as a consultant writing a report on the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program. Upon being hired, I met Rita who struck me as being first extremely vulnerable and second very beautiful. She was working on the Food for Peace Program for which I envied her. My envy was reduced considerably by the fact that she was so pleasant and friendly. At the time I was blissfully monogamous with a beautiful woman. I recognized there were other women in the world, but surprisingly, I did not care.
Except for the Christmas party at Rita’s house, which was a lot of fun, my only real encounter with her concerned eye surgery. She had cut her eye on a contact lens and several of us in the office were sympathetic. The last I heard of her (until deciding to write this post) was an article in the late lamented Washington Star discussing how she had found Jesus.
I could tell you about Rita’s husband John Jenrette, whose membership on the Oilseeds and Rice Subcommittee of the House, but there is not much to say. I spent weeks covering the hearings on the rice bill watching John pretending to work. Before John Jenrette, I had not realized that a member of Congress could be that devoid of talent and intelligence.
Note: Just to give you a taste for the Abscam scandal, I am publishing this video. Rep. Jenrette is somewhere in the complete tapes. If you care, see You Tube. Meanwhile, here is some slime.