Until his name became synonymous with hypocrite a week ago, Sen. Paul Stanley was a proud champion of traditional family values. A Sunday school teacher with a wife and two young children, he often spoke piously of the ideal home environment that only a loving married couple can provide—and of the importance of his own evangelical upbringing in molding his strict views.
His website displayed heavenly scenes of sun and sky while the words "reliable, honorable and conservative" flashed across the screen. He relentlessly pushed legislation to ban gay couples from adopting, though it would have meant hundreds of unwanted children remaining as orphans in state custody.
"The best home environment is one where mom and dad are there," Stanley said. "When you're married, there's a commitment there."
Three officials of Planned Parenthood of Memphis came to Nashville during this year's legislative session to lobby lawmakers not to kill funding for their organization. Stanley told them he'd never support Planned Parenthood.
"He told us that he didn't believe young people should have sex before marriage anyway, that his faith and church are important to him, and he wants to promote abstinence," Planned Parenthood's Joan Carr recalled last week.
Ah, those were happy, confident times for Stanley. That visit was on April 7. The next morning, we have since learned, the jig was up, when the senator received a polite text message notifying him that he was the target of blackmail.
"Good morning sir, how are you this fine day?" the text began. Stanley had been having sex with his 22-year-old intern and taking pictures of her naked in his bedroom. Her boyfriend found the photographs, and according to state investigators, he estimated their value to the senator at $10,000 to keep them private.
Carr was outraged: "Hypocrite, anyone?" she asked. "In retrospect, I think maybe Sen. Stanley meant that he just doesn't want young people to have sex with each other, thereby saving the cute young things for himself."
What came next was just as predictable as a moralizing "family values" legislator cheating on his wife. Conservatives started making excuses for Stanley and attacking his intern, McKensie Morrison, as the real villain.
Morrison's past revealed plenty of ammunition. Growing up in Port Orange, Fla., she was her high school's student body president, vice president of the Latin club and a member of the National Honor Society. But somehow her life went terribly wrong after she graduated in 2005.
Along with her boyfriend, a basketball player at her high school named Randy Mueller, she was arrested after a policeman found cocaine and a crack pipe in her backpack. The charges were dismissed, but she fell on hard times with Mueller, whom she married a few months later.
According to reports, they were basically homeless, relying on casual acquaintances for showers and food. She watched her husband beat one of these acquaintances, a 75-year-old man, with a hammer, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Mueller, who's serving a seven-year prison sentence, told police he attacked the man for making sexual advances to his wife.
Last month, the couple filed for divorce. When she became Stanley's intern, Morrison was living in Tennessee with her father, attending Austin Peay and making straight A's.
"The portrayal of this 22-year-old on various blogs and media reports as a victim is quite startling," the East Tennessee radio talk-show host Terry Frank wrote on her blog. "Both Stanley and Ms. Morrison made horrible decisions! When a state senator asked me on a date when I was an intern, I said, 'No.' He asked me, 'Why not?' and it was very easy for me to say, 'Because you're married.' I was Ms. Morrison's age."
Rep. Stacey Campfield, lending rich new meaning to the term jackass, also stood behind Stanley in his time of crisis:
"I have never heard any conservative Republican say they were perfect," he wrote on his blog. "Never one. Not on any issue. We try to do what is right, but we are not, by any stretch of the word, perfect."
Campfield also posted this as his Quote of the Day from an unidentified legislator: "Well, I guess this is just more proof: Republicans are clearly irresistible to females."
Stanley himself has remained in hiding. His only public comment was a three-sentence statement on the night the news broke. "I am the victim," it began. It's probably a good thing for Stanley that he's kept quiet since then.
Lawmakers have been trying to steer clear of reporters too. Sexual harassment of interns is thought to be commonplace at the legislature. In an email to the Post Politics blog, one ex-intern wrote: "I just hope all of this knocks those egotistical creepy men off their high horses and maybe scares them off from chasing around interns, and I can assure you that some of them did. I know some interns didn't have the best character, but they were also 22 as opposed to 50+."
On Monday, Senate GOP leader Mark Norris and Shelby County Republican Party chair Lang Wiseman called for Stanley to resign. But at the Scene's press time, there had been no word from the senator. Whether he resigns or finishes his term, his political career, thankfully, is over.
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