NEW YORK (Reuters) - Pity the wife.
With her husband ensnared in a sex scandal, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s wife is living through the worst nightmare for any political spouse — the “Stand By Your Man” moment.
Silda Wall Spitzer, the mother of the governor’s three daughters, stood by her husband’s side at a news conference on Monday where he admitted he had violated his obligations to his family and his “sense of right and wrong.”
The New York Times said Spitzer was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet a prostitute at a Washington hotel last month. He neither confirmed or denied the report.
Spitzer, who was a crusading attorney general before winning the governorship on a promise to clean up state politics, said he wanted to take time “to regain the trust of my family.”
Dina McGreevey, the ex-wife of former New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey who resigned in 2004 over a gay affair with a man whom he hired, said Spitzer should start by resigning.
Likening Silda Wall Spitzer’s experience to her own, Dina McGreevey told CNN the public exposure made an already difficult situation even tougher for the wife.
“She’s ridiculed and shamed in front of virtually the entire world,” McGreevey told CNN. “She’s not only dealing with her own personal pain but trying to protect her daughters from this.
“I thought that Governor Spitzer was going to announce his resignation today. By not doing so he’s only prolonging the pain and anguish and humiliation.”
The first lady of New York state, Silda Wall Spitzer has a law degree from Harvard and is chairwoman of a non-profit group called Children for Children.
At Monday’s news conference, she maintained her composure, looking a little dejected but stoic, as her husband spoke. The two held hands as they walked away from the podium after his statement.
Some were reminded of another political spouse who lived through such a moment — Hillary Clinton, a New York senator now seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.
Then-President Bill Clinton had a sexual relationship with intern Monica Lewinsky, then 21, which led to his impeachment in 1998 after accusations he lied about it under oath.
Well before the Lewinsky affair, Clinton famously defended her husband in another scandal over reports of an affair.
In a January 1992 joint television interview with Clinton, she rejected a comparison with the “little woman” in the Tammy Wynette country song “Stand By Your Man.” She said she was with Clinton because she loved him and respected him.
Asked about the Spitzer case at a campaign event on Monday, Clinton said she had no comment “but I obviously am sending my best wishes and thoughts to the governor and to his family.”
Dina McGreevey urged people not to criticize Spitzer’s wife for her decision to stand by his side, saying she made a similar choice for the sake of her daughter.
“I was criticized for standing there. Hillary Clinton was criticized for standing there with her husband. We all do it for very personal reasons,” McGreevey said in the CNN interview.
“You don’t know what it’s like unless you’re in the person’s shoes.”
Editing by Eric Beech