Another congressman's affair with "an intern" is exposed

The headline at the New York Post looked depressingly familiar this weekend. A Democratic congressman from Nevada had admitted to having a long-running extramarital affair with “an intern” after his mistress went public about it on a podcast. But I felt compelled to put the part about the woman being an intern in scare quotes because, while technically true, it’s not quite as bad as the phrasing makes it sound. Congressman Steven Horsford (D-Nevada) has been caught with his pants down, at least figuratively, but the details of the story make this a tad less scandalous.

A married Nevada congressman has admitted having a longstanding affair with a former intern calling herself “Love Jones” — after she exposed him in an explosive series of podcasts.

Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.) — who had previously been Nevada’s first African-American State Senate Majority Leader — came forward after Gabriela Linder detailed the affair in a podcast, “Mistress for Congress.”

It started in 2009 when she was a 21-year-old intern at then-Senator Harry Reid’s Nevada office — and they only broke ties in April, the same month she started her podcast, she told the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“It is true that I had a previous relationship outside of my marriage, over the course of several years,” Rep. Horsford told the paper.

So Horsford began stepping out on his wife more than a decade ago and had managed to keep his relationship with “Love Jones” a secret until just this month. And when the affair began in 2009, his mistress was indeed an intern. But she was working for Senator Harry Reid (another Nevada Democrat), not Horsford. In fact, as you read further into the details, she’s never worked for Horsford, though he did help introduce her to other politicians and influencers to keep her career going.

Why is this an important distinction? You’ll recall that Katie Hill (of throuple fame) wasn’t taken down because of her sexual adventures or because of any revenge porn. She was being investigated because she’d been getting busy with one of her campaign staffers and stood accused (though not proven or admitted) of having a dalliance with one of her congressional staffers. That’s an abuse of power and a potential violation of House ethics rules.

What Horsford is guilty of by admission is your run of the mill trail of marital infidelity. Still not a good look, but also not a violation of the ethics rules. If we started tossing out every elected official who cheated on their spouse, the halls of Congress (and probably the White House) would start looking pretty empty on any given year.

Thus far, Gabriela Linder (the real name of “Love Jones”) doesn’t seem to be accusing Horsford of anything other than breaking her heart. She claims that Horsford “offered her financial support” but doesn’t say whether or not she accepted it. But even if she did, it doesn’t sound as if there was any sort of quid pro quo here because she also flatly states that he “never told me to keep quiet. He didn’t have to.”

Unless something more concrete can be established showing that Horsford used either money or the power of his office to inappropriately aid his mistress or purchase her silence, there might not be anything here for an ethics investigation to go after. And based on the statement released by his spokesperson, it doesn’t sound as if Horsford plans on resigning or not running for another term. So the matter remains between him and his wife and children. And, of course, the voters in November, who will decide if this is the sort of behavior they’re willing to accept from their elected officials.

That might not be a slam dunk, by the way. Nevada’s 4th District has flipped back and forth between the parties over the past decade. Horsford actually held the seat for one term following the 2012 elections, losing his reelection bid to his Republican challenger. That Republican then went on to lose his own reelection to a different Democrat, Ruben Kihuen, who retired after one term coincidentally after the exposure of a sex scandal of his own. (Is there something in the water out there?) That opened to door for Horsford to take the office back in the 2018 race. So this seat could definitely be in play this November.