Donna Rice Hughes - Gary Hart Scandal

Gary Hart Scandal

Soon after meeting Rice, Hart announced that he would run for nomination as the Democratic candidate for President. Having enjoyed a surprisingly strong campaign in 1984 against the eventual nominee, former Vice President Walter Mondale, he was widely perceived as a front-runner for the Democratic nomination in 1988. However, shortly thereafter rumors began circulating about his having an extra-marital affair, leading the candidate to challenge the media to surveil him, and to also claim that anybody who did so would "be very bored." The day before Hart's dare to the media was to appear in The New York Times, however, two reporters for the Miami Herald observed Rice coming out of Hart's Washington, D.C. townhouse, and their story was published on the same day that his challenge appeared in the Times. While Hart contended that the reporters could have no knowledge of exactly when Rice arrived or why she was there, his popular appeal nevertheless suffered a major blow, and polls taken almost immediately afterward found him to be 10 points behind Massachusetts governor Michael Dukakis. Two days after their initial story, the Herald obtained a photograph of Rice sitting on Hart's lap in Bimini aboard a luxury motor yacht named Monkey Business lent by socialite Lillian Briggs. The celebrity tabloid National Enquirer immediately published the photograph, and within five days, Hart had decided to drop out of the Democratic Presidential nomination race.

As a result of the scandal, Rice lost her job as a marketing representative for a pharmaceutical company in South Florida. The enormous publicity generated by the Hart scandal resulted in numerous other offers, however, and while she refused most – including one for an appearance in Playboy magazine – she did work as a national spokeswoman for No Excuses jeans until Hart's unsuccessful re-entry into the presidential race in December 1987.

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