Question for all you political scandal aficionados: Does the news that Zimbabwe officials have arrested former congressman Mel Reynolds for allegedly violating immigration laws and possessing pornographic material—material that Reynolds supposedly created himself—mean that we the people will at last be rid of this habitual skeezeball?
This may seem like a question with an obvious answer. As the Zimbabwe press tells it, the ex-congressman has been quite the busy little bee. According to one former Reynolds aide, identified in the local paper newspaper only as “Sunny,” the ex-congressman “was in possession of pornographic material he shot on different occasions while in the company of a model (name supplied) and several girls in his hotel rooms. ‘His travel documents were not up to date and he used to bring beautiful women at different times. He employed five of us including a personal assistant and a driver.’”
Another “closely placed source” told the Herald that Reynolds “shot more than 100 pornographic videos and a further 2,000 nude pictures while he was in the company of at least 10 women including famous models.”
Videos and nude photos, shot by the ex-congressman himself? The man isn’t just some garden-variety pervert. He’s an artist! (God, let us hope none of those naked pics were selfies.)
On top of all that, by the time the 62-year-old Reynolds was picked up Monday from the Bronte Garden Hotel in Harare by police and immigration officials, he had reportedly run up more than $24,500 in unpaid hotel bills.
Assuming that even a fraction of what is being reported is true, such international antics seem like enough to convince even the ballsiest of pols to abandon any hope of a return to public office. Then again, we are talking here about Mel Reynolds, a former rising political star who, not three years after being elected to Congress, was forced from office in 1995 when he was convicted on 12 counts of solicitation of child pornography, obstruction of justice, and statutory rape for having sex with a 16-year-old campaign worker. The congressman was given a five-year prison term, during which time he was also convicted on 15 counts of bank fraud and lying to the Security and Exchange Commission, earning himself another 78 months behind bars. Alas, on his way out of the White House in 2001, Bill Clinton commuted the remainder of Reynolds’s sentence.
Three years later, Reynolds was right back out on the campaign trail, trying to reclaim his seat from his House successor, Jesse Jackson Jr. Jackson trounced Reynolds in the Democratic primary. Undeterred, Reynolds bided his time and, when Jackson had to give up the seat in the wake of his own health/legal troubles, Reynolds tried again in 2012.
In that race, Reynolds played the fallen sinner card hard. In a bit of political jujitsu so popular with disgraced pols (see Newt Gingrich, Eliot Spitzer, Mark Sanford, Anthony Weiner), Reynolds piously reminded voters that everyone makes mistakes and deserves a second chance. As he sermonized at one campaign gathering (backed by a bright-red banner touting “Redemption”):“Think of the hundreds of thousands of people in the African American community who have made a mistake and gone to prison… Are we to write off all of those people? Forever? Even if they are qualified to do things?”
Thankfully, the voters of Illinois’s 2nd District had the good sense not to swallow Reynolds’s particularly rank load of horseshit. Because, as this week’s arrest suggests, the type of “things” Reynolds is “qualified to do” don’t recommend him for public office so much as perhaps another stint behind bars—or at least a healthy dose of therapy.