Rep. Cantor's Selective Outrage Over Sex Scandals

June 13, 2011 4:50 pm ET — Matt Finkelstein

Rep. Eric Cantor

Today, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) escalated his criticism of scandal-plagued Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), who has resisted calls for his resignation from Cantor, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, and some Democratic leaders. In a briefing with reporters, Cantor suggested that Democrats should strip Weiner of his committee assignments if he refuses to leave office voluntarily:  

"I called on him to resign early, because I think that this kind of behavior is unacceptable, the way that his leaders now have called on him to resign." Cantor said at a pen and pad briefing. "I'm hoping that they will begin to move, if he does not resign, toward perhaps stripping him of his committees." [...]

"I think he should resign, I think his leaders should do everything they can to bring him to that point if he's not already."

Like other Republicans who have stood by Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), who remains in the Senate despite his solicitation of prostitutes, Cantor's disgust with Weiner seems to be motivated by politics and not principle. Indeed, three years ago, Cantor adopted a much more lenient attitude when a fellow GOP congressman was embroiled in an arguably more serious scandal.

In 2008, then-Rep. Vito Fossella (R-NY) was arrested for drunk driving, which led to the discovery that the congressman was having an extramarital affair and had fathered a child with his mistress. At the time, Cantor told CNBC's Larry Kudlow that the scandal was bad for the GOP "brand," but did not demand Fossella's resignation. "Vito's got some decisions to make," he said.

KUDLOW: Congressman, my question is what are you going to do with this? The clock is ticking and the public is watching.

CANTOR: Larry look, there's no question this isn't good for the brand. There's no question that what had happened there is just, you know, unfathomable to many Americans. Vito's got some decisions to make. I believe he will make them quickly and we will be able to go forward. And frankly, we need a lot of work. And we've got very little time in order to repair our brand.

Similarly, then-Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) said of Fossella's fate, "this is a decision between he, his family and his constituents." Fossella served out the remainder of his term and declined to seek reelection. 

— Salvatore Colleluori contributed to this post.