When you’re a politician and the “good news” in a story about you is that you allegedly created a toxic work environment for your employees, it’s not a good sign.
That was the situation U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy found himself in Oct. 3 when the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a story not just about the atmosphere in the congressman’s offices, but also detailing communications between Murphy and a woman previously identified as his mistress that suggested Murphy, a favorite of pro-life groups, had raised the idea of the woman having an abortion when she believed she was pregnant with the 65-year-old married lawmaker’s child.
Condemnation came swiftly, and the following day, the Upper St. Clair Republican met with House Speaker Paul Ryan and later announced he would not be running for re-election next year. Apparently that wasn’t enough, however, as less than 24 hours later he announced his resignation, effective Oct. 21.
Murphy’s troubles started about a month ago with a Post-Gazette report about Murphy’s affair with Shannon Edwards, a forensic psychologist half his age with whom the congressman had worked on his mental-health legislation that was passed last year. Their relationship came to light when the Post-Gazette went to court to unseal a divorce action brought by Edwards’ estranged husband, who requested an order to depose Murphy regarding “marital misconduct.”
If Murphy’s political future took a hit from that story, it was rocked by the newspaper report, which said Edwards texted Murphy the following in January: “And you have zero issue posting your pro-life stance all over the place when you had no issue asking me to abort our unborn child just last week when we thought that was one of the options.” As it turned out, Edwards was not pregnant.
Noted the P-G, “The congressman has been lauded by the Family Research Council for his stance on abortion, as well as for family values, generally. He also has been endorsed by LifePAC, which opposes abortion rights, and is a member of the House Pro-Life Caucus, an affiliation that is often cited by his office.” Ironically, on the day when Edwards’ text became public, the House was approving a bill co-sponsored by Murphy that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.
Jaw-dropping hypocrisy is nothing new in the halls of Congress, particularly among the “family values” contingent, but Murphy became this month’s poster boy for preaching one thing and doing another.
His situation even caught the attention of the satirical website “The Onion,” which posted a piece that didn’t name Murphy but said, in part, “House Republicans on Wednesday introduced legislation that would sharply limit abortions to those necessary to save a promising political career. ... At press time, the bill was amended to clarify that the political careers in question were men’s and that any pregnant female politicians would be required to bring pregnancies to full term.”
Sadly, it has become increasingly clear that a lack of personal integrity is no barrier to success in American politics, but Murphy obviously did a quick assessment and figured out that his self-inflicted wounds were not survivable.
His initial statement announcing his decision to pass on re-election was largely boilerplate and, as the P-G noted, “mentioned nothing about reports on his marital infidelity, a text message discussing abortion and a document suggesting his staffers viewed him as an angry and erratic boss.”
We’ve always held mixed opinions about Murphy. We’ve praised his work to improve access to mental-health care, but we’ve also often viewed him as a rubber stamp for most legislation pushed by his party’s leaders, regardless of how it might affect his constituents.
In the end, Murphy became an embarrassment to the people he was elected to represent, at least those who still subscribe to any standards of decency. It’s an ignominious end to a long political career.