We’re probably not going out on a limb by saying that Doug Hampton’s entire televised interview about John Ensign’s affair with Hampton’s wife Cindy, and the fallout from it, had to have been pretty embarrassing for the Nevada senator, if he’s even been able to bring himself to watch it.
But one particular narrative that Hampton lays out really brings out what seems like the utter pathetic-ness of a man who Republicans once talked about as presidential material — as well as the strangely paternalistic culture of the religious organization with which he’s affiliated. And it jibes with yesterday’s news that Ensign went to his parents to pay off the Hamptons, painting a picture of a man who, despite being 51 years old and a powerful US senator, still seems strangely weak-willed and dependent on those around him.
Hampton told his interviewer, Jon Ralston, that after discovering that Ensign was sleeping with Cindy Hampton — and rightly not trusting the senator’s assurances that the affair was over — Doug Hampton went to a group of men associated with the C Street Christian fellowship to which Ensign belonged, and asked them to “confront” Ensign.
Already we’re in weird territory here: couldn’t Hampton have just kept this between himself, his wife, and the Ensigns? Why bring in these outsiders? Hampton’s determination to avoid recognizing that his wife had any agency in the affair, and his decision to address it in an outside men-only forum, goes beyond self-delusion and into a kind of misogyny. But set that aside because things get weirder…
Hampton went on to name four of the men who confronted Ensign: Tim Coe, David Coe, Marty Sherman, and Sen. Tom Coburn. The Coes are the sons of Doug Coe, the influential pastor and longtime leader of The Family, the secretive Christian group with which the C Street fellowship is affiliated. Sherman also has been involved with the Family. “They have a good heart,” Hampton said of the men. (He did not address the question of how the men survive while sharing a crucial bodily organ.)
At that confrontation, according to Hampton, Coburn and the other men urged Ensign — the son of a multimillionaire casino magnate — to pay for the Hamptons’ home and for a move to Colorado. But as Hampton described it, they also insisted that Ensign write a letter to his girlfriend — later obtained by the Las Vegas Sun — breaking things off and expressing remorse. Then, says Hampton, two of the men, Tim Coe and Sherman, actually drove Ensign to a FedEx office, apparently to make sure he sent the letter.
And yet, Hampton said that soon after ditching his detail of religious protectors, Ensign called Cindy to warn her that the letter was coming and that she should disregard it. Twenty-four hours after sending the letter, said Hampton, Ensign was with Cindy in Las Vegas.
Now, Ensign’s sex life is basically his own and his wife’s business. But when a US senator submits to a lecture about that sex life from a group of outsiders, then has himself driven to FedEx to mail a letter breaking things off with his girlfriend — who, incidentally, is his best friend’s wife — before secretly disavowing the letter right afterward and continuing the affair, he simply becomes hard to take seriously as a human being, much less as any kind of candidate for anything.
And in case that doesn’t make Ensign out to be pathetic enough, there’s a capper: after all this, when it finally came time to cover his tracks and get the Hamptons out of his office, he couldn’t find it in him to tell Cindy himself — he needed his religious buddies even for that. “Cindy ultimately was asked to leave basically by The Family,” Doug Hampton told Ralston.
Leaning on his parents for a lousy hundred grand starts to seem like a stand-up move, by comparison.