Political corruption scandals are popular media fare. There are rooting interests, generally. Democrats root for Republican scandals, Republicans root for Democratic scandals, citizens of all partisanships jeer any politician who stole money, and the media hopes for any scandal, anywhere, to sell unused advertising space. Scandals are entertaining.
Consideration is rarely given to the politician whose life has taken a dramatic downward turn. I confess that when a politician steals money, I’m not the first one to feel sorry when they get convicted.
We remember Budd Dwyer. Everything you wanted to know about his public suicide can be found here. In short, Dwyer was the State Treasurer of Pennsylvania. In the middle of a corruption scandal, where Dwyer was accused of taking $300,000 in kick-backs from an illegally obtained contract, Dwyer called a press conference. It was held on live t.v. You can read about it in detail here. Dwyer signalled the end of the press conference by taking out a .357 Magnum out of a manilla envelope and shooting himself in the head.
People reacted in various ways:
– In 1995, the rock band Filter had a hit with the song “Hey Man, Nice Shot”, which, although not explicitly mentioning Dwyer, was “inspired” by Dwyer’s suicide, according to band members.
– During the late 1980′s, college students at various Pennsylvania universities would pass among themselves coins with holes drilled out of the center, referred to as a “Budd Dwyer Commemorative.”
And now we have this very disturbing story:
“A former city commissioner recently indicted on corruption charges fatally shot himself in the lobby of The Miami Herald building the same day another newspaper published lurid accusations against him. Arthur E. Teele Jr. shot himself in the head Wednesday after asking a security guard if he could deliver a message to columnist Jim DeFede, a longtime acquaintance, the Herald reported Thursday.
“Tell my wife that I love her,” the guard said Teele told him.”
It’s a strangely compelling tale. I don’t know why this story strikes me as compelling. I should feel for the family he left behind, and I do. I am also drawn to the story itself, amazed at a man who walks into a newspaper office lobby and commits suicide in public.
What drives a person to do this? Is it because of the humilation suffered by public accusations?
“On Wednesday, The Miami New Times, an alternative weekly newspaper, published a report online titled “Tales of Teele: Sleaze Stories” that detailed the former commissioner’s alleged contacts with drug dealers, crooked contractors and prostitutes, including a male transvestite. The story was largely based on police reports.”
Bud Dwyer, it is said, was careful to shoot himself before conviction and while he was still holding the position of State Treasurer so that his family could collect the pension. I don’t know if this is the case for Teele.