The beginning of the end: Richard Mellon Scaife and his second wife, Margaret Ritchie Rhea Battle Scaife, posed for a holiday greeting in 2005, just before his infidelity was confirmed by a private investigator.
Over a decade after he bankrollled conservative sting operations into Bill Clinton’s personal life—adding serious oomph to what Hillary Clinton famously dubbed a “vast right-wing conspiracy”—Richard Mellon Scaife, scion of Pittsburgh’s famous Mellon banking and industry dynasty, has also been busted for cheating, and has recently broken bread with Bill in the former president’s New York office.
Asked whether his infidelity is hypocritical, in light of his political commitments, [Scaife] refers not to a moral principle but to his own personal history. “My first marriage ended with an affair,” he says, amused. And monogamy is not, he continues, an essential part of a good marriage. “I don’t want people throwing rocks at me in the street. But I believe in open marriage.” Philandering, Scaife says with a laugh, “is something that Bill Clinton and I have in common.”
Those are surprising words indeed to hear from a man who spent so lavishly to uncover Bill Clinton’s sexual peccadilloes and to advance the movement fueled by family values. But it would be a mistake to read the saga of Richard Mellon Scaife’s divorce as simply a story of moral hypocrisy. His treatment of women, especially his first wife, suggests a high regard for his own gratification. His commitment to conservative politics has never been primarily about upholding traditional morality; it has been about promoting policies that help to preserve his own wealth and that of people like himself. On the subject of Clinton, his weather vane is now spinning wildly. Scaife speaks of a “very pleasant” two-hour-and-fifteen-minute private lunch with Bill Clinton at the former president’s New York office last summer. “I never met such a charismatic man in my whole life,” Scaife says, glowing with pleasure at the memory.
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