Jack Ryan gambled with a lie and lost … and we lost, too

By WND Staff

There are some pro-life and pro-family leaders in Illinois (and nationally) who are urging Jack Ryan to re-enter the race against Democrat Barack Obama for U.S. Senate. Here’s why I am not one of them.

We spend a lot of time and energy in the pro-life and pro-family movement defending truth, including the idea that absolute truth – right vs. wrong – exists. We say that words have meanings that are often distorted to advance anti-life and immoral policies like abortion-on-demand and homosexual “marriage.” (The quote marks denote our attempt to preserve the meaning of that word.)

Along comes Jack Ryan to the rescue of a down-and-out Republican Party of Illinois, which is reeling from a corruption scandal and liberal leadership that undermines the aforementioned noble principles. (Illinois GOP Chairman Judy Baar Topinka sat atop a float in the recent Chicago “gay pride” parade.) Like many family advocates, I was drawn to Jack’s pro-life and pro-marriage record, as well as his message of reaching out to African American voters. He also sought the advice and support of conservative leaders – a definite plus.

What none of us knew about Jack, however, was that he was taking a massive gamble by lying about the contents of his divorce-custody files, which contained the explosive charge by his ex-wife, Jeri, that he took her to, not one, but three “sex clubs,” and pressured her to have (public) sex at one of the clubs. Jack’s bet was that the files would remain sealed. Ultimately, they were opened due to a lawsuit filed by the Chicago Tribune and WLS-Channel 7.

Jack’s defenders have tried to make this an issue of liberal media misconduct – how GOP-hating journalists relished undermining a Republican Senate campaign, paving the way for the left-loving Obama to go to Washington. As one who has spent my entire professional life critiquing liberal media bias, I am not one to give reporters a pass. But the same Tribune that exposed Jack’s past also pried loose the nasty divorce records of Democrat Senate hopeful Blair Hull, so this was a case of bipartisan snooping.

(Of course, Brent Bozell of the conservative Media Research Center is right when he says that reporters generally do not cover liberal political scandals with the same zeal that they do conservative scandals.)

It appears that Jack Ryan lied about the contents of the then-sealed divorce papers to anyone who inquired about them, including two writers at Human Events, a conservative weekly newspaper based in Washington, D.C. It’s pretty hard to get farther from the “liberal media” than Human Events, which was one of Ronald Reagan’s favorite reads. (I used to write for Human Events and am a contributing editor for the publication.)

Human Events’ nationally respected political editor, John Gizzi, and Associate Editor David Freddoso were two of the people Jack misled. In a June 24 column titled “Lyin’ Ryan,” they wrote they were surprised at the divorce revelations “because Ryan looked both of us straight in the eyes and lied to us in an off-the-record lunch two weeks ago.”

“At one point, we asked him point-blank about the files and whether their release would be damaging. Ryan insisted emphatically that the files contained nothing untoward. And we said to ourselves later, why would he lie to us since the files were to be released in a matter of days? A campaign staffer even said to us, in Ryan’s absence, that Ryan was acting against his political interests by not releasing the files. He said that they contained nothing but information on his son, whom he loves dearly and only wants to protect.”

Note the escalating deception revealed here: Not only was there nothing embarrassing in the files, but it was against Jack’s political interests to release them. This reminds me of the old “Seinfeld” episodes where one lie would lead to another to cover up the first, and so on. As the axiom goes, it’s always the cover-up that gets you in trouble.

You may recall that just before the primary vote, as rumors swirled of damaging content in Jack’s divorce files, he vigorously denied they contained any embarrassing information. He said he was only interested in protecting his young son, not himself, by fighting to keep them sealed. Of course, now we know that had the “sex club” allegations been revealed back then, Jack would have lost the primary and the Illinois GOP would not be in this mess.

After news of the files’ salacious revelations broke, Jack refused to answer “yes” or “no” to the simple question of whether he had in fact visited the three sex clubs. Now, few people would even think of venturing into a perverted sex club, but if you did, wouldn’t you at least remember it? Yet Jack kept referring questioners to the divorce papers. Meanwhile, ex-wife Jeri stood by her account in the files, and it was clear that Jack could not be publicly at odds with her. Then, with his credibility sinking fast, Jack pulled a “Clinton” by trying to put a new spin on the story, claiming, “The worst thing I can be accused of is asking my own wife to have sex in an inappropriate place.”

No, Jack. The worst thing you can be accused of is engaging in a campaign of deception to advance your goal of winning the GOP nomination – at the expense of your own staff, other candidates who were victimized by your half-truths, and a party that needed a straight-shooter at this critical juncture to lift itself out of the morass of corruption and despondency.

As a deeply flawed person, I hope this doesn’t come off as sanctimonious, for I can hardly imagine running for public office and being subjected to the intense scrutiny of a cynical media. Few could endure that. And only God knows what led Jack to make his miscalculation. But this does not change the fact that he put self before others, and played loose with the truth as he gambled it would never surface. Perhaps ambition got the better of him, but isn’t there already too much of that in Washington?

As people of faith, we are the ones who insist that old-fashioned values like honesty, truth and honor matter. So does public policy: It would be a big mistake for the Illinois GOP to put forth a pro-abortion, pro-homosexual candidate like Andrea Grubb Barthwell to run against the pro-abortion, pro-homosexual Obama. The people of this state need a choice on these critical social issues, but we must remember that standing for integrity transcends party politics.

I teach my children that Bill Clinton was a disgrace to the presidency because of his shameful exploits, his immoral policies – and because he lied to the American people, even as he could be seen carrying his hefty Bible out of church on Sundays. When a Republican like Jack Ryan gets caught in a lie, we have to be consistent and call it what it is. Yes, it’s convenient to blame aggressive reporters, but Jack’s integrity deficit was not a media creation. He reaped what he sowed, as the Good Book says, and now he needs to show some contrition for what he did rather than blame the media and liberal Republicans for his demise.

Pro-lifers and pro-family conservatives who downplay GOP integrity crises risk being labeled as hypocrites and partisan hacks when they go after Democrat deceivers. The Ryan fiasco is a lesson for all that regardless of political persuasion, failing to tell the truth can have awful consequences.

Jack Ryan took a huge gamble that the truth about his past would not be revealed. And he lost. Unfortunately, the people of Illinois lost, too.


Peter LaBarbera is executive director of the Illinois Family Institute and president of Americans for Truth.