The Burwin sex scandal refers to the lengthy sex scandal, investigation and Congressional and federal court hearings between 1995 and 1998 involving former US President John Burwin and a number of women he allegedly engaged in sexual activity before and during his time as President. The scandal is attributed to directly affecting his loss in the 1996 Presidential election and his "political-blacklisting" in the subsequent years.
The scandal was referred to by historian Martin Yaeger as "the greatest political scandal in history," and by Presidential historians Irene Winger and Clark Deems, who have written a book about each President in order, as "probably the most significant political scandal in United States history."
Allegations during Governorship
Even before his designs on the Presidency, Burwin's time as Governor of Sequoyah included a handful of allegations of wrongdoing. In 1988, a campaign volunteer named Julia Mintz claimed that Burwin had taken her to dinner three times alone at expensive Sequoyah City restaurants, and had offered her season tickets to Sequoyah Braves football games if she would accompany him to a Governor's conference in Washington. Mintz denied, however, that Burwin solicited sex from her and an investigation by Sequoyah State Attorney General Robin Dogwood concluded that Burwin had not used state funds to pay for her football tickets or the dinners.
However, once Burwin had left the Governor's office in January 1990, allegations surfaced once again of an extramarital affair in 1985 involving a Sequoyah State Senate intern named Jennifer Boller, who apparently had been involved in a series of sexual encounters with Burwin during his 1985 reelection campaign, and that he had promised her a position within his state government if reelected in return for sex. Boller claimed that she had been discouraged from disclosing the affair by Burwin's wife Wendy, who personally approached the intern and told her that she would receive "any sum under the stars" to keep the affair a secret. There was never any hard evidence of any kind, however, and despite a second investigation by the Sequoyah government, Burwin was again exonerated and able to continue his campaign.
Patrick Donaghy Investigation
In late 1993, a Congressman Patrick Donaghy (N-Huron) was under investigation for alleged lewd conduct towards a 24-year old staffer on Capitol Hill, a significant investigation in that Donaghy was one of the more powerful Nationalist Congressmen at the time and was one of Burwin's few allies within the opposition party.
During the investigation, Donaghy made an off-the-cuff remark to a reporter: "Look, I've talked to the President, and I've talked to the guys around the Hill. Nobody's judging anybody. I'm a bachelor, I don't have a wife, so there's no affair here. Besides, it's Washington. Everybody and their brother has a mistress here, from the White House to the Pentagon."
Taking the earlier accounts of infidelity into consideration, many in the media interpreted Donaghy's remarks as an indictment of Burwin and a serious suggestion that the President was having an affair. However, Donaghy deflected such remarks and said that he was making a broad generalization for effect and emphasis. He was convicted and censured in mid-1994.
1994 Congressional Elections
Burwin's administration up until 1994 had been characterized by a tepid return of faith in the economy and stronger foreign relations with South America than had been seen in a quarter century. While the Democrats would lose control of the Senate thanks to two Nationalist pickups to create a 51-49 split, the opposition narrowly failed to take back control of the House of Representatives and Burwin hailed the moment as a major achievement for his party, having survived their first midterm intact, unlike the 1990 midterms in which Robert Redford's Nationalists had been soundly defeated in both houses, losing the Senate they had held for six years and the House of Representatives they had controlled for ten.
However, during the 1994 elections, Burwin had been sighted by paparazzi on numerous occasions in the company of women who were not his wife, and many of them were often known actresses, singers or models. A photograph of him taken with Nova Scotia star Sandra Bullock at a Los Angeles restaurant in October 1994 caused a stir, and soon whispers began spreading around Washington that the President, who looked confident and in great position heading towards the 1996 election, was pursuing at least one, if not several, extramarital affairs.
Newsweek Cover Story
In November of 1995, with less than a year to go before the 1996 Presidential election, Burwin's solid footing twelve months before had eroded somewhat. Economists agreed that a new, more severe recession was on the horizon in what was already a slowly growing economy. On top of that, Burwin's sensationalized Peking Conference to cut a landmark trade deal with the Asian Sphere of Prosperity had fallen flat and his relationship with French Emperor Albert II and his State Minister, Alexander Neveshkin, had grown colder due to the Cold War frustrations of France in Indochina.
In this already unfriendly political climate, Newsweek published a story based on three anonymous sources referred to as X, Y and Z due to their proximity to the President. The story painted a detailed picture of Burwin's affairs with actresses Sandra Bullock, who starred on the enormously popular TV show Nova Scotia, and Natalie Weaver, a popular actress in the late 1980's who had rocketed to superstardom thanks to hits such as 1990's The Montgomery Files, 1991's Jake McCoy and the Last Crusade and Crimes of Passion, and 1993's megahit Jurassic Park. The story suggested that Burwin had been involved with Bullock since 1992 and Weaver since even earlier.
The source known as X also revealed that Burwin had paid four members of the Secret Service with briefcases of cash to keep secret his location on at least 34 different occasions between his inauguration in 1993 and late 1994, and had paid Secret Service agent Michael Brown a sum of $5,675,000 to forge secure and confidential logs in order to fabricate his location at critical times. The most damning piece of the story, provided by the source named Z, was an allegation that Burwin had frequented the use of body doubles on numerous occasions while he was off rendezvousing with one of his numerous mistresses. Z referred to Burwin's extramarital subject pool as a "stable of the willing" and "the Presidential harem."
Fallout and Alleged Cover-Up
Immediately, the story was sensationalized on every news source. Dan Quayle of NBC referred to it as, "the heaviest allegations levelled against a President in modern history," and Charles Gibson of ABC described the scandal as, "a potential nail-in-the-coffin for the Burwin Presidency should these allegations be proven true."
Burwin and his wife instantly called a news conference to deny the reports, calling them "frivolous," and Burwin went so far as to say, "the right wing of this government needs something to stick me with so they'll have a chance next fall." Wendy next iterated, "My husband is loyal. He is not an adulterer."
The Burwin marriage was not known as a happy one and there had been whispers of an avoided divorce based on the potential political gain for both parties. Wendy Burwin, a full eight years younger than her husband, was eyeing a Senate run in the future and apparently feared being detached from the Presidency through divorce would hurt her own political chances.
Sandra Bullock responded first through her agent and then in person during an interview that she had never had an affair with Burwin, but that they were friends and she considered him an inspiring political figure. While it appeared for a few weeks as if Burwin had dodged a huge bullet, in early December Natalie Weaver finally agreed to address the press after returning from a film shoot in London and admitted to an on-and-off "casual fling" with the President from between 1991, when he was in his early campaign, to the middle of 1993, including an encounter in a broom closet while the candidate Burwin had snuck away from his security detail in March 1992 and also three times when she had been visited by Burwin in a Washington, D.C. hotel while he was President.
Weaver did, however, affirm that the affair was consensual, mutual, that she considered Burwin a "sweetheart, charmer and gentleman" and that she herself had decided to break off the affair when she met her fiancee, Ian Brohdain. According to a detailed account released through her agent, Weaver described Burwin's reaction to her desires to end the relationship as "amicable" and that he had wished her the best, and that he had respectfully declined to attend her planned 1996 wedding in Los Angeles for security reasons.
The "Weaver bomb," as it was called, damaged Burwin politically enormously, and the field of Nationalist candidates for the 1996 election jumped at the chance to condemn him for his extramarital affair. Weaver would later express regret over admitting to the affair due to the political fallout it caused and the negative press she herself received, especially after she was referred to as a "whore" by Georgia Senator Peter Durg.
A report surfaced in January of 1996 alleging that following the Newsweek story, White House Chief of Staff Ronald Howliss had issued an unofficial gag order against all members of the senior White House staff and had threatened to fire and prosecute any junior staff member who broke the order. White House Press Secretary James Robbins was apparently forbidden from commenting on the scandal unless having received direct approval from Howliss himself. Burwin denied the rumors that Howliss was strong-arming the White House, and promised to openly comply with the investigation, denying his involvement with Weaver and saying that, "this will all go away in a few months and we can focus on politics and the people of the United States instead."