The Under-reported Christian Angle to the Gary Hart Scandal of “Front Runner”
There’s a new movie out based on the Gary Hart scandal of 1987. It’s called “Front Runner” and stars Hugh Jackman.
You may recall that Gary Hart, a handsome Democrat politician from Colorado, was easily the front runner in the road to the 1988 presidential election, at least the primaries. But he derailed himself in 1987 through a sexual scandal on board a South Florida yacht, appropriately called “Monkey Business.”
This was back at a time when sexual scandals had meaning. In his classic movie, “Citizen Kane” (1940), Orson Welles did a marvelous job showing how, back in the day, a sexual scandal could sink a successful politician.
Gary Hart denied that he was seeing any mistresses (and even challenged reporters to follow him), but a widely publicized photo of Hart with Donna Rice on his lap on board the boat said otherwise.
ABC’s “Good Morning America” recently highlighted this and had Donna Rice Hughes as a guest. However, they seemed to leave out God.
What follows is the Christian testimony of Donna Rice Hughes, who got caught up in a world-famous scandal, and how God has used the lowest point of her life to bring about good.
I’ve interviewed Donna a few times for Christian TV and radio. She told me, “I was brought up in a Christian home and a Christian family, and came to know Christ as my personal Savior when I was a very young person. And I spent high school and college time really pretty much in school and involved in my church and my youth group. I only dated Christian boys.”
A negative turning point in her life came after college, and it all began with very small concessions.
She said, “I began to make some subtle compromises in my life. And before long, I was dating non-Christian guys from time to time; and, in fact, it was during one of those dates that I lost my virginity when I was twenty-two against my will. And we call that now a date-rape. And that was really a catalyst that kind of moved me into a prodigal time in my twenties where I just put God [and] my Bible on a shelf; and I was just doing sort of the baby-boomer success track that many young women were pursuing at the time.”
One compromise led to another, as her morality spiraled out of control: “And it took going through this international scandal in 1987 for God to get my attention again. And He did.”
Donna continued, “What it really did was it drove me to my knees. And I realized how far I had gotten from the Lord, and that I was in so much pain. It was such a devastating time for me and for my family. And so I rededicated my life to Him at that point, and went through really seven years of being underground.”
In the wake of the scandal and the international headlines it garnered, tabloid outlets and pornographic magazines were seeking her out. She could easily have turned her story into a lot of cash. She observed, “I turned away all of the millions of dollars that I was offered to exploit my situation.”
Instead she sought a complete spiritual restoration.
As Donna Rice went off the radar, she began to read and study the Bible seriously and other Christian books.
She also found help through Christian fellowship. She told me, “God just brought wonderful Christians into my life, and I was really nurtured and cared for, and carried, and grew. It was a time of growth, of walking through the fire and growing through the fire. I eventually came back to Washington, D. C. to get married, and began working with Enough is Enough.”
Enough is Enough is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to making the Internet safe for children, for example, by protecting them “from both porn and sexual predators,” to quote Hughes. “Our overall focus…has been preventing all Internet enabled exploitation of children online.” How ironic that a woman initially known for a sex scandal is now a leading champion against porn.
Hughes added, “And little did I know, that the very entities I wanted nothing to do with as far as a career, which was politics and the media, was exactly what I was going to be doing. And not only that, I was going to be working with a sexually controversial issue.…my whole story illustrates, in a way, God’s sense of humor, but also how He really can bring incredible redemption and restoration in situations that seem hopeless as mine did.”
As Paul Harvey used to say, “And now you know, the rest of the story.”
[Photo by Jerry Newcombe of South Florida waterways….when back in 1987 in this area, the famous “Monkey Business” photo was taken.]