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No. 8: David Wu

Before there was Anthony Weiner in his briefs, there was David Wu in his tiger suit.

Like his New York counterpart, Wu, who represented Oregon’s first district in the U.S. House of Representatives, resigned his seat amid a salacious sex scandal. Like Weiner, Wu initially vowed to stay in his seat when the story broke. But unlike the embattled New York congressman, who became a daily punchline for late-night comics and doubtless inspired many workplaces to review their social-media best practices, Wu’s downfall didn’t make the splash Weiner’s did. Still, Wu’s offenses were arguably much more serious than the former New York rep’s foray into digital exhibitionism.

Wu’s somewhat ludicrous entry into the national consciousness may have played a part in the divergent story lines. In the run-up to his 2010 reelection, Wu’s campaign staffers stated that he was acting erratically and demanded he enter a facility for psychiatric treatment. They offered an interesting piece of evidence that their boss was unraveling: A picture had circulated among his staff of the congressman in an orange-and-black striped tiger suit. The attire wasn’t especially outlandish for a father of two young children who was planning to don it for Halloween. However, the fact that he emailed the unsolicited snapshot raised eyebrows and hastened  exits. Six staffers jumped ship after Wu was re-elected in 2010. The mass departures prompted him to apologize and acknowledge that he’d sought professional care, blaming the stresses of fatherhood, his impending divorce, and the death of his father for his unusual behavior.

The tale of “tiger dad” might have ended there. But just as the battle over the debt ceiling grabbed the news cycle, a new report circulated: Wu had been accused by the 18-year-old daughter of a campaign donor of an “aggressive and unwanted” encounter.  The allegations were reminiscent of previous claims that surfaced before the 2004 elections: Wu had been accused of sexually assaulting an ex-girlfriend while a student in Stanford in the 1970s. Wu addressed that report shortly after its publication, calling his behavior at that time “inexcusable.”

He also wasted little time in confronting the newest allegations against him, admitting that he’d been intimate with the young woman but insisting the encounter was consensual. A call by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for an ethics investigation into Wu’s conduct was met by the congressman’s assertion that he would not resign. He changed his tune days later, opting to resign as soon as the debt-ceiling impasse was resolved. Wu stepped down on August 3, prompting Oregon to select a replacement via a special election set for January 2012.

Wu has kept a low profile since his resignation, but his former spokesman, Erik Dorey, seems to have made out all right. He’s grabbed a new gig as the communications director for Oregon Democrats looking to replace Wu.

Erin Wright is the Philadelphia editor for Yahoo! Local. Before joining Yahoo!, she worked at NewsWorks, the website of WHYY, Philly’s PBS affiliate.

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