A Real-Life "House Of Cards": Scandalous Affairs Between Journalists And Their Sources

Netflix’s House of Cards centers around the inappropriate relationship between a journalist and her government source. They’re not the first of their kind to throw all sense aside and pay the price for it.

1. Here’s a trailer for “House of Cards”, Netflix’s first original series. All 13 episodes of Season 1 are now available

Based off of a British show of the same name, it stars Kevin Spacey as Frank Underwood, the Majority Whip for the U.S. House of Representatives who has been passed over for Secretary of State, and Kate Mara as Zoe Barnes, a reporter who makes some ethically questionable choices. She appears to have a relationship with him that is less than professional.

2. Journalists sleeping with their sources is a common plot line used in Hollywood.

Like in Thank You For Smoking, ABC’s Nashville or Scoop. In real life, it’s more typical for journalists to have relationships with sources deemed by others to be too close for comfort than confirmed as wholly unprofessional.

3. Here are a few real-life journalist/source controversies that have blown up:

4. The Origin of Screwing Elephants

Who did the unethical thing: Married Pennsylvania State Senator Henry Cianfrani and political reporter Laura Foreman began a relationship while she was working for The Philadelphia Inquirer in the late 1970s. Foreman moved from the Inquirer to the New York Times, but when it was revealed that she’d received thousands of dollars in gifts from Cianfrani, she was forced to resign.

What’d they do next: Unrelated to his relationship with Foreman, Cianfrani was indicted on federal charges which included racketeering, bribery, obstruction of justice, and tax evasion. He went to prison for a couple years, and he and Foreman married after he was released.

Fun Fact: Their relationship prompted Times editor Abe Rosenthal to infamously say, “I don’t care if my reporters are screwing elephants as long as they’re not covering the circus.”

5. The Winning Welchs

Jodi Hilton / Getty Images

Who did the unethical thing: Harvard Business Review editor Suzy Wetlaufer and General Electric CEO Jack Welch met while she was working on a story about him in 2001. Their affair came to a head when Welch’s then-wife discovered they were seeing each other by reading his emails.

What’d they do next: Wetlaufer lost her job and Welch lost hundreds of millions of dollars when he divorced his wife. He and Suzy (who are over two decades apart in age) married in 2004.

Fun Fact: The pair co-wrote a book together called Winning: The Ultimate Business How-To Book.

6. The Villaraigosalinas Affair

David Hume Kennerly / Getty Images

Who did the unethical thing: Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and Telemundo reporter Mirthala Salinas’ affair was first reported in 2007, after a noted friendship had developed between the pair. The real problem began when the station allowed Salinas to fill in as news anchor, which meant that she read copy “regarding the mayor’s separation from his wife [which] was a flagrant violation of [station] guidelines,” wrote network president Don Browne.

What’d they do next: Villaraigosa’s wife divorced him and, after his relationship with Salinas ended, he went on to date another local television anchor and former Miss USA for several years. Telemundo forced Salinas to take two months off of work, and planned to move her away from reporting in L.A., which the Los Angeles Times called “a notable fall for a one-time rising star who has become one of the most recognizable faces in local Spanish-language television.” She quit instead and now works for another Spanish-language network.

Fun Fact: Though Villaraigosa was actually a hybrid of the Mayor’s former last name and his wife’s surname Raigosa, he did not change it after their divorce.

7. The Bikini Reporter

Who did the unethical thing: In 2007, local (married) NBC Chicago reporter Amy Jacobson was seen wearing a bikini at the home of a Craig Stebic, whose wife Lisa was reported missing; Jacobson was working on a story about the case.

What’d they do next: After being fired, Jacobson sued multiple people at CBS (who aired the footage) for, among many things, provoking intentional emotional distress and defamation. Her marriage ended and she’s now on the radio. The Lisa Stebic case is still open.

Fun Fact: Jacobson denied doing anything wrong, and said she went swimming because she’d promised her two sons they’d go that day.

8. Blue Balls Gate

Who did the unethical thing: In 2012, leaked emails revealed that Wall Street Journal reporter Gina Chong and one-time Obama administration nominee for ambassador to Iraq Brett McGurk had an affair in 2008, while McGurk was working for then-president for President George W. Bush (and was married).

What’d they do next: Got married, for one. In an email to friends, Chon wrote “…underneath the half-truths and outright lies is a fairly simple tale of two people who met in Baghdad, fell in love, got engaged and later married.” She resigned from the WSJ because she’d shown articles to McGurk before they’d been published and is now at Quartz.

Fun Fact: The emails were almost gleefully circulated in the press because of the multiple references to Chon giving McGurk “blue balls.”

9. The Developing Story

Carlos Osorio / AP

Who did the unethical thing: In early January, Detroit News reporter Leonard Fleming was accused of threatening the Carol Dillon, ex-wife of Michigan’s State Treasurer Andy Dillon, with a baseball bat.

What’d they do next: Carol Dillon filed a restraining order against Fleming (calling him a “friend”) and the managing editor of the Detroit News has said that Fleming isn’t covering city finances any longer. It is not clear if he will face any other repercussions.

Fun Fact: Dillon “also accused Fleming of sending her a picture of his penis, noting she would be missing it if they stopped being friends,” reported the Detroit Free press. Other details of the complaint can he found here.

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