I must admit I am surprised at Tiger Woods (with wife Elin at right). He didn’t seem like that kind of guy. But neither did another of my heroes, a venerated general and U.S. president, the late Dwight D. Eisenhower. Or Thomas Jefferson, also one of my heroes. Or…
You get the idea.
I’m sure you’re familiar with the endless archive of sexual transgressions involving prominent people through the ages, from King David to Bill Clinton. And you’ve probably read about the recent sexual exploits of politicians like Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, John Ensign, David Vitter and others far too numerous to mention.
Then there’s Hollywood, which has provided fodder for the tabloids for as long as I can remember. One of my great disappointments came half a century ago, when I learned that Elizabeth Taylor had stolen Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds.
We found out about these sinners because they were on the public stage at the time. Divorce courts everywhere are full of similar tales that never make it into the media.
Even pious Jimmy Carter, perhaps the most decent U.S. president in history, admitted to doing it – in his heart. And, as every Christian should know, doing it in your heart is still doing it. Committing adultery that is.
In the Anglican Church, which I used to attend, we said, “We have done those things which we ought not to have done and we have left undone those things which we ought to have done. And there is no health in us.” And we would beg for God’s mercy.
Of course, God was not so lenient in Old Testament days. In Leviticus, the Biblical book of laws, which is regularly cited by those who denounce abortion and same-sex marriage, the penalty for adultery is death by stoning.
But if we were to stone all the people who stray today, we would run out of rocks in a hurry. Today, we stone transgressors with shame – despite the New Testament admonition that only someone without sin should cast the first stone.
There’s a big difference between adultery and abuse of the public trust, however. Sanford, for example, didn’t just commit adultery; he used public funds to do it. And so did Ensign, apparently. Then there’s Max Baucus. The Montana senator allegedly nominated his former state office director, Melodee Hanes, for the post of U.S. attorney – while they were involved in a love affair.
You may not have heard about the Baucus scandal. The media are too obsessed with Tiger’s folly to give Baucus much play. But which of the two men is really accountable to the public? Baucus, the senator who was trying to get his girlfriend a government job? Or Tiger, the golfer who has never taken a dime from American taxpayers?
To justify their shameless exploitation of the public’s voyeurism, the media argue that Tiger makes money by selling his image, and therefore the public has a right to know when his credibility is damaged. To me, that’s quite a stretch.
Tiger has made about $92 million in prize money and another nine hundred million from endorsements. But tell me, do you think any of the companies using his image would pay a dime to get the endorsement of some 18-handicap hacker who is the epitome of marital fidelity?
Tiger’s endorsement is worth money – lots of money – because of the way he swings a golf club, not the way he handles his personal relationships. So, here’s my take on the Tiger scandal: Let’s leave the man in peace to sort things out with his wife.
If any reporters are so crass as to mention this regrettable business when Tiger returns to tournament play, they should have their PGA press cards revoked, and be chased out of the business in a hail of stones.
And -yes – I would be happy to throw the first stone.