Cheating men get a second life in politics, cheating women get a scarlet letter

On December 15, 2011, four male Minnesota state senators called a press conference. Its purpose was to issue a moral rebuke to a woman who wasn’t there, over an extramarital affair she’d had with a colleague. In the ensuing weeks, the four men would force the woman, the state’s first ever female majority leader, to move to an office far from theirs, on a different floor. Nobody would move into her vacant office before the end of the term, after which the woman would pack her things and leave the home she had shared with her husband of 18 years to move back in with her parents. Weeks later, the woman’s 64-year-old mother would die of breast cancer, only four months after her diagnosis.

Amy Koch still feels the echoes of the day of that press conference in her life. “People called it ‘The Scarlet Letter award ceremony,’” she tells The Daily Beast. “I didn’t watch it. I’ll never watch it.”

That was the day that news of Koch’s affair with a male senate staffer went public, that her colleagues turned on her, that Koch resigned from her leadership position among state senate Republicans and announced she wouldn’t seek reelection. The damage to her life and career felt complete, the shame all-consuming.