Politician Misconduct That Was Caught On Camera

When one is a politician in a democratic system, image is everything. Politicians go to incredible lengths to hide their pasts, positively spin questionable incidents, and straight up deny their worst moments — even when the denial is an obvious lie. One might even say that lying is part of the job description. NewsNation host Dan Abrams lamented this tendency of politicians (in his case, Lauren Boebert) to deny till they die in an op-ed. That is, until incontrovertible video or photo evidence comes out that proves otherwise. And even when they come clean, the "apologies," if any, are half-hearted.

The reality is that politicians engage in misconduct all the time. Granted, misconduct is a term that can run the gamut from embarrassing but relatively innocuous incidents, such as Boebert being disruptive at a theater, to more serious instances of fights between politicians, or even borderline-criminal groping and usage of hard drugs. Today, because of smartphones, this misbehavior is much harder to hide, and it has become easier to hold politicians accountable. Here are some politicians who got caught misbehaving and were caught red-handed.

Valentina Guadarrama pulls a Homer Simpson

In 2020, the Congress of Mexico City began meeting over Zoom in response to COVID-19. But as many bosses and teachers figured out with remote work, employees had their ways of pretending to show up. Congresswoman Valentina Guadarrama was reportedly one of these.

Guadarrama was listening to a speech by Congressman Jorge Gavino when her screen froze. It turned out that Guadarrama had put up a photo of herself to make it seem like she was still there, according to a video posted to Twitter by Gavino and cited in Mexico's El Tiempo newspaper. But if Guadarrama had intended to fool her colleagues, she completely botched it. As seen in the video, Guadarrama placed the photo of herself while she was still on camera, so she appeared on the screen with the picture of her face behind her. Then, her arms kept poking through the sides of the screen in front of the image.

The congresswoman denied that she had been ghosting her colleagues, saying that the entire incident was due to technical difficulties, and apologized for not knowing how to use it. But that did not stop Mexican netizens, who posted hilarious memes that compared Guadarrama's tech gaffe to Homer Simpson's attempts to skip work at the nuclear plant by putting an obvious scarecrow at his workstation. Embarrassing, but not as bad as another Mexican politician who accidentally went topless on a government Zoom call, not realizing her camera was still on.

Lauren Boebert gets thrown out of a theater

Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert landed in hot water after she and her date, Quinn Gallagher, were removed from the Denver Center for the Performing Arts' rendition of "Beetlejuice" for "not adhering to guest policies," according to a statement from the theater cited by CBS News.

The Republican congresswoman said in a tweet that she was guilty of "laughing and singing too loud," while denying she had vaped on the premises. Later, however, when full surveillance footage of the congresswoman and her date at their seats emerged, which did show her vaping near a pregnant woman, she issued an apology. She said that she "genuinely did not recall vaping" and added she was "truly sorry for the unwanted attention [her] Sunday evening in Denver [had] brought to the community." Boebert confessed to falling "short of her values" and cited her ongoing divorce from her estranged husband Jayson. The latter defended her and begged people to have "grace and mercy."

In addition to disruptive behavior, it was alleged, according to Newsweek, that Boebert and her date had engaged in indecent, intimate fondling inside the theater. The Denver district attorney, however, said through a spokesman that Boebert will not be facing any charges. Matthew Hand, a Denver criminal defense attorney, told the outlet that it would be difficult to convict Boebert on these grounds because of the vagueness of public indecency laws. In Boebert's case, since the alleged fondling would not be "likely to be observed by others," it probably would not meet the "beyond reasonable doubt" threshold needed for a conviction.

Bill Clinton hasn't changed

Bill Clinton is no stranger to bad behavior. From the Monica Lewinsky scandal that led to his 1998 impeachment for lying to Congress to allegations he fathered a child with an Arkansas woman, the former president has generated plenty of sex-related headlines in his life. Although he has not hit the scandal levels of the '80s and '90s, the ex-president has still had his moments.

Some of Clinton's more recent moments of misbehavior have involved ogling women before cameras in an unsubtle and obvious manner. In 2018, Clinton was attending American singer Aretha Franklin's funeral, where Ariana Grande performed the late singer's "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." In the video, Clinton is delightfully fixated on Grande, and repeatedly looks downward (presumably at her backside). It wasn't the first time either. At the 2017 inauguration, Clinton was caught on camera appearing to ogle Ivanka Trump as she arrived at the ceremony. Only once Hillary Clinton caught him did his expression change.

In addition to his women-related scandals, the ex-president had one other bad moment captured on camera back in 1996. Clinton Commerce Secretary Ron Brown died on April 3, 1996, after his plane crashed into a mountainside over Dubrovnik, Croatia. At his funeral, Clinton was caught on camera laughing, smiling, and joking with an aide. Once he noticed the cameras were on him, however, he quickly hung his head and even appeared to pretend to shed tears. The aide he is talking to appears to keep laughing through it all.

Rebekah Warren gets arrested for being super drunk

Politicians are arrested for DUI fairly frequently, but it is not always that the full footage goes public. On the night of December 26, 2019, drivers on Michigan's I-75 reported that a car had driven onto the shoulder and hit the guardrail, according to footage obtained by ABC News. Police from nearby Auburn Hills arrived, where they found Michigan State Sen. Rebekah Warren. They administered a field sobriety test, which Warren failed after she was unable to walk in a straight line. When she refused the breathalyzer, they arrested her.

Despite being clearly inebriated and in no state to drive, Warren doubled down. According to footage taken from inside the police car, she appeared to ask for a reprieve based on her political office. The footage recorded her saying, "You [the police] don't understand, I'm elected. I'm a senator. People will be, like, 'The senator got arrested ... It's going to be, like, the senator from Ann Arbor's career is over. This is like career-ending for me."

Warren eventually pleaded guilty to reduced misdemeanor charges in return for one year of probation and community service, avoiding the harsher penalties of the state's "super drunk law" (driving with a BAC of >.17). Under that law, she would have faced up to 6 months in prison, driver's license suspension, and community service. She also issued an apology, saying she took "full responsibility for [her] actions" and called the incident "a stupid mistake." Warren's career in the state senate did end, but because of term limits rather than her DUI.

Sanna Marin grinds with mystery man while married

Former Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, who became the world's youngest PM at age 34, went viral over some questionable behavior (for a world leader) on the dance floor. On August 19, 2022, a video surfaced on social media from a Finnish nightclub that appeared to show Marin dancing with another man who was not her husband.

While dancing in itself was not a problem, people noted that she appeared to be grinding on him. The man in return appeared to nuzzle her neck and possibly whisper in her ear, although it is not clear if he kissed her as well. Finnish tabloid Seiska, cited by the Toronto Sun, reported that other club attendees witnessed Marin dancing with a total of three men and sitting on the laps of another two. The video ignited a debate among the public. On one hand, her defenders argued that she, as a human, had the right to have fun – even if she was the prime minister. Finland's conservatives, however, criticized her, saying that she was damaging her own image and that of the country.

Marin, for whom this type of incident was not the first, refused to apologize, saying that she had the right to spend her free time as she wished. She volunteered for a drug test to prove that she had not been under the influence of anything illegal, which she passed. Her marriage, however, fell apart, as she and her husband, who she'd started dating 19 years before and shared a daughter with, divorced in May 2023.

Silvio Berlusconi's locker room promise

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi had no shortage of gaffes and scandals. Most famous were the so-called "bunga-bunga" sex parties, for which the former PM allegedly would hire escorts, some of whom were underage. He beat that rap in February 2023 and it does not appear any footage of these parties was ever captured (probably for the best). That said, there were other instances in which the ex-prime minister was caught in less-than-ideal situations (not that he cared).

His most recent viral misbehavior before his June 2023 death involved sex (shocker!) and soccer players. In December 2022, Berlusconi was speaking to the staff and players of the Italian soccer club Monza, which he owned, at the team Christmas party. In the video (translation provided by Politico), Berlusconi told the party that new coach Raffaele Palladino would whip the team into winning shape, but offered an additional incentive to the players to beat top teams – specifically Juventus and his old club AC Milan. He would ship a "busload of wh***s" to the team locker room for every win against a Serie A top team.

The party guests all cheered the ex-PM and laughed, while Italian female politicians lambasted him. Berlusconi responded on Twitter, saying he did not think a "simple locker room joke" would have drawn such a harsh response. He did not apologize, unsurprising for someone who appeared to unrepentantly check out Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt's behind at the 2011 EU Summit.

Vittorio Sgarbi tells Rome about his sex life

Vittorio Sgarbi, an Italian junior minister of culture in Giorgia Meloni's administration, went on a bizarre rant involving sex, genitalia, and swearing at the opening of Rome's MAXXI Museum for 21st Century Art in June 2023, per Euro News.

In an excerpt of the video posted to Twitter and linked to by the outlet, Sgarbi inexplicably telephones some guy and starts calling him a "nobody" and a "cuckold" while swearing at him repeatedly. He then bragged to this guy that he was at one point sleeping with nine women per month while ruminating on the "tragedy" that the notorious Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi had slept with less than 100 – less than Garbi supposedly slept with in a year, if you do the math. Sgarbi then told the museum President Alessandro Giuli that everything in life leads back to male genitalia, allegedly referencing French writer Michel Houellebecq. "... in life, there's a moment in which we know only one organ: the d*** ... an organ of knowledge, that is of penetration, it serves to [make us] understand."

The minister's comments outraged Italian women's organizations, which demanded his resignation, while the country's culture minister condemned his comments as "inadmissible." But at the end of the day, they were not surprising coming from a man who had said, in front of his own daughter, that "girls born in 2000 [are] wh***s." His daughter was born in 2000.

Pinocchio picture starts a huge fight in Kosovo's parliament

On July 13, 2023, Kosovo Prime Minister Albin Kurti was giving a speech to parliament about escalating tensions in the Serb-dominated regions of northern Kosovo. As Politico reported, citing local media, Serb residents had boycotted local elections, leading to the victories of ethnically Albanian candidates. Kurti's speech was discussing proposals on how to calm tensions before they exploded into another episode of Balkan interethnic violence.

The Kosovar opposition, however, blamed Kurti's policies for the clashes. As he was speaking, members of the opposition held up a picture of Kurti with a Pinocchio nose, implying he was a liar. When Deputy Prime Minister Besnik Bislimi ripped it up, Democratic Party of Kosovo MP Mergim Lushtaku splashed him and Kurti in their faces with a water bottle.

In the video, Bislimi appears to take the bottle and throw it back at Lushtaku, who responds by attempting to attack both the PM and deputy PM. A female MP or staffer attempts to separate them as other members rush into the fight, turning it into an all-out brawl. As punches fly, one MP appears to get hit in the face. Police had to be called in to escort the prime minister out before things got too violent. As it turned out, such tactics were not uncommon, notably in 2018 when members of the opposition Lëvizja Vetëvendosje Party set off tear gas in the chamber to block a treaty resolving Kosovo's border disputes with Montenegro.

Ukraine's PM gets grabbed down there

The Ukrainian parliament has seen its share of fights in the past decade or so, including a big brawl over the national status of the Russian language in 2012. But while mass fights in Eastern European parliaments are not exactly rare, they don't usually involve roses and grabbing the prime minister by the crotch.

That is precisely what happened in December 2015. Then-Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk was delivering a yearly State of the Nation report to parliament, according to ABC News. Another politician, Oleg Barna of ex-President Petro Poroshenko's European Solidarity (abbreviated BPP for "Blok Petro Poroshenko"), walked up to Yatsenyuk's podium with a bouquet of roses. Inexplicably, he handed them to the PM, walked behind him, and lifted him by the waist off the podium.

What happened next was truly crazy. Barna hoisted Yatsenyuk by his genitalia as other politicians rushed to intervene. One can be seen attempting to put Barna in a headlock. As more joined in, security intervened and it appeared that it was successful in averting an all-out brawl. Barna was suspended from five parliamentary sessions while the head of his party castigated him and apologized to Yatsenyuk for Barna's disgraceful behavior. That said, none of this was frankly surprising from a country that has given social media numerous parliamentary fistfights, including one in which two politicians got into a no-holds-barred boxing match, reportedly over a landfill.

Sen. Charles Bishop throws down in Alabama

Alabama Republican State Sen. Charles Bishop was in a discussion with colleagues during a break in proceedings, including with Democrat State Sen. Lowell Barron, according to video footage from 2007. At one point, Bishop punched Barron in the head as colleagues and security rushed to restrain him and separate the two before it escalated into a larger fight. The video itself did not give much information about the cause of the punch, but it turned out that Bishop considered it a matter of honor.

Bishop claimed that Barron had referred to him as a "son of a b****" to his face. The senator took it as an insult toward his mother. "I was raised in the woods of Arkansas and people don't say that about your mom," he said, according to WTHR. After the incident, the state senate weighed censuring Bishop and banning him from the day's remaining proceedings for his actions, but he left of his own accord.

Bishop later issued a statement expressing regret for his actions, saying "that's not the way grown men solve their problems." He did not, however, apologize to Barron for hitting him, suggesting that he felt his action was at least somewhat justified. Barron denied ever insulting Bishop or his mother, claiming that Bishop had actually sworn at him and attacked him while he was trying to leave the conversation. Fellow state senators said that regardless of who was at fault, it was a disgrace, with Republican Sen. Jay Love calling it "a black eye on the Legislature and the Senate in particular."

Kevin de León goes at it with protester

The Los Angeles City Council sparked a firestorm late in 2022 when a recording of a call surfaced. In it, Councilwoman Nury Martinez compared a Black colleague's son to a monkey, per the Los Angeles Times. Councilman Kevin de León apologized for his comment that said colleague treated his son like a handbag, but refused to resign – one of two council members who would not.

That December, de León was handing out presents to children as Santa Claus at a Christmas tree lighting when a handful of protesters interrupted the event, demanding de León's resignation over his involvement in the call. According to video footage posted to Twitter by activist group Roots Action, one activist, identified as Jason Reedy, appeared to block de León's path while holding a camera to his face as the councilman attempted to leave the auditorium. De León got past him, and Reedy followed, despite attempts by other attendees to stop him. Eventually, the two men got into a scuffle in which de León appeared to push and shove Reedy, slamming him onto a nearby table.

De León responded to the Roots Action video with his own drop, which he claimed showed that Reedy had attempted to punch him first. Reedy responded through lawyers saying that the video proved that the councilman had started the fight. Both men ended up filing police reports accusing each other of battery, but in August 2023, Los Angeles City Attorney Hydee Feldstein Soto opted not to charge either man. Both expressed disappointment with her decision.

Gavin Newsom violates his own COVID rules

In November 2020, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered California businesses such as gyms, restaurants, and churches to cease indoor operations due to the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Restaurants in most places were allowed to continue outdoor dining with social distancing and masking, per U.S. News & World Report, although some places such as Los Angeles County put temporary bans on that, too.

But it was revealed that on November 6, Gov. Newsom had attended a birthday party for a friend and medical lobbyist at a Napa restaurant called the French Laundry, in violation of his own rules. According to Fox 11-Los Angeles, Newsom claimed that the dinner had been outdoors with proper precautionary measures. The outlet, however, then broke exclusive photos that not only had the dinner been indoors, contrary to Newsom's claims, there also had not been any masking or social distancing.

The photos led to a massive fallout for a number of reasons. First of all, there were several California Medical Association lobbyists – representatives of an organization that had pushed hard for universal masking – violating the very rules they had advocated for. Then there was Newsom, who became a "national symbol of do as I say, not as I do." To make matters worse, Newsom laughed and smiled his way through his apology video, which one business owner told U.S. News & World Report was "pathetic." Following the incident, some California businesses began openly defying COVID rules as people lost trust in both Newsom and the health authorities. The incident also fueled a recall effort spearheaded by talk show host Larry Elder, which Newsom survived comfortably.

Boris Johnson commits the vice of vices

When former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson resigned in July 2022, much of his unpopularity came from the fallout surrounding violations of his own COVID rules. In January 2022, a British Cabinet Report concluded that parties had taken place at 10 Downing Street – Boris Johnson's official residence as PM – while the country was locked down due to COVID measures, gatherings of more than two were banned, and masking and social distancing measures were in place. And it was not just one or two social events either. There were at least 12.

When rumors of the parties surfaced in 2021, Johnson went into full denial mode. First, he denied the parties had ever happened. Then, once photos started leaking and denial was no longer possible, he pivoted and said that the gatherings had happened, but followed all the rules, according to ITV News. But ITV then published a series of exclusive photos that showed Boris Johnson violating the rules: He and several aides were depicted "closely together," without masks, while the PM raised a glass of alcohol in a toast after making a speech. Just eight days before, Johnson had imposed a strict lockdown on England in which people were only allowed to leave their homes for "essential reasons."

The episode, known as "Partygate," caused Johnson's popularity to plunge, despite apologies and a fine. A New York Times report noted that while his policy failures might have been more forgivable, his engagement in hypocrisy, which Hannah Arendt called the "vice of vices," made him odious in the British public's eyes.

Rob Ford caught smoking crack

Ex-Toronto Mayor Rob Ford ran as a populist and swept into office with 47% of the vote in 2010. In 2013, however, he became embroiled in a hard drug scandal after rumors surfaced that there existed a video of him smoking crack with drug dealers. Ford initially denied smoking crack, adding that he had never seen the purported video – if it even existed.

Eventually, police seized the video in question during a raid against drug gangs, and former Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair then confirmed the video's existence to journalists. (The Guardian would eventually release the full version of the video in 2016.) Ford was forced to backpedal and apologize, saying that he tried crack in a "drunken stupor" but was not addicted to the drug.

After apologizing, Ford entered the 2014 Toronto mayoral race, despite his admission to using drugs. That year, a second video surfaced that showed him smoking an unidentified substance, according to the Canadian Globe and Mail, which reportedly obtained the clip from one of the drug dealers who had shot the footage. Following the publication of this second video, Ford quit the campaign trail to go into drug rehab. John Tory replaced him as mayor after defeating Rob's brother Doug in the 2014 election with 40% of the vote.

Joe Biden tries to grope Eva Longoria

President Joe Biden is known for being a "gaffe machine" – and that is his own descriptor. More serious though, are allegations that he has inappropriately groped and kissed women, including former Nevada State Rep. Lucy Flores, according to Vox. The outlet said that Biden's touchiness with women is not new, it has just been swept under the rug.

While Biden has had many such moments caught on camera in the past, according to Vox, he has accumulated some more as president, most famously his alleged attempted groping of actress and Democratic donor Eva Longoria. The president met with Longoria in 2023 at a White House screening of her movie "Flamin' Hot," according to Newsweek. First, Biden made an awkward comment, telling the crowd that he had met Longoria when she was 17 and he was 40. Shortly after that comment, Biden finished his remarks and hugged the actress, according to video of the incident. As the hug ends, the president appears to move his hands from her back towards her chest as she pushes them away to prevent him from groping her.

Social media users slammed the president, both for his remarks and the alleged groping, saying the comment made him come off as a "creepy old man." Supporters of his likely 2024 opponent, former President Donald Trump, accused the press of ignoring the incident and double standards. Eva Longoria, however, does not seem to have ever commented on the incident.

Al Franken gets #MeToo'd

Al Franken represented Minnesota in the U.S. Senate after a career as a comedian and political activist. Before going to Washington, he had been part of "Saturday Night Live," per NBC. In 2017, however, his political career ended after he was hit with groping allegations at the height of the #MeToo movement – a phenomenon he had supported only weeks before.

Radio host and commentator Leeann Tweeden hit Franken with two allegations. The first was that he had forcibly and aggressively kissed her. Tweeden said that as they were rehearsing a 2006 USO skit for army personnel that involved them kissing, "he came at [her], put his hand on the back of [her] head, mashed his lips against [hers] and aggressively stuck his tongue in [her] mouth" – more than was necessary for their scene.

The second allegation was that Franken groped Tweeden's breasts while she slept. The radio host produced a photo showing Franken appearing to do exactly that, giving this allegation a lot of weight. The senator responded, saying it was "disgusting" and "completely inappropriate ... [It was] obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture." Responses from fellow politicians varied. Washington Democrat Patricia Murray called for an ethics investigation into Franken's behavior while acknowledging his apology. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren was much less forgiving, calling the incident "unacceptable and deeply disturbing." Finally, there was then-President Donald Trump, who dubbed Franken "Al Frankenstein." Franken resigned shortly after additional allegations from seven other women surfaced, but later said he regretted doing so.

Matt Hancock busted breaking his own lockdown rules with lover

Matt Hancock served as a British member of Parliament and health minister under Boris Johnson. By 2021, he was facing accusations of favoritism in handing out COVID-19 testing contracts and botching the U.K.'s response, according to CNN. The final nail came when he violated his own COVID rules to make out with his mistress.

Hancock was caught on closed-circuit TV kissing his staffer and married lover Gina Colangelo while feeling up her behind. And if it wasn't enough that the married father of three was breaking his vows, he also violated the U.K.'s COVID-related health rule that placed a moratorium on contact between members of different households and was still in force for two weeks after the incident.

Hancock ended up apologizing and resigning. But he did not seem to completely regret his actions. On an episode of the British reality show "I'm a Celebrity ...Get Me Out of Here," Hancock admitted to fellow contestant and comedian Babatunde Aléshé that he "messed up and fessed up," but said he "[had fallen] in love." He added that he and Colangelo were still together, saying that it was "the best part of being kicked out." In another clip, contestants confronted him about the incident in the context of COVID. He responded that he "didn't break any laws. Guidance is different." His fellow contestants were not impressed, with one noting that she had witnessed a relative's funeral without even being able to hug anyone.

John Sewel throws away his reputation for a good time

Former House of Lords Peer John Sewel resigned his position in July 2015 after tabloids obtained footage that appeared to show him using drugs with escorts at a party in his London apartment. In the video, Sewell appeared to be inhaling a white powder (presumably cocaine) through rolled-up banknotes while wearing an orange bra. All this occurred at a sex party with a handful of escorts whose services allegedly cost £200 per night, according to The Telegraph.

Several factors worsened the scandal. First, Sewel, a married man, did not bother to remove his ring during the party. Second, he was a distinguished life member of the House of Lords and a respected academic, having served as senior vice-principal at the University of Aberdeen. He was also the chair of committees in the House of Lords and in charge of enforcing its standards and code of conduct. He had even written an op-ed in the Huffington Post weeks earlier celebrating how the upper chamber would finally be able to expel members for breaches of conduct. One of the conditions of serving in the House of Lords was to "sign a declaration to obey the code and the seven principles of public life," one of which required officials to "challenge poor behavior."

In the end, Sewel, who had been appointed a peer for life, was challenged for his poor behavior with an internal investigation by the House of Lords and another from law enforcement. He ended up taking a leave of absence and then resigned from his position.