Jeri Ryan Scandal


The Jeri Ryan scandal is a unique one. Unlike other celebrity scandals, this one had a direct impact on the course of American history. Its importance in the rise of current U.S. President Barack Obama is undeniable, in that it was influential in his claim on a United States Senate seat from the state of Illinois back in 2004. His rise to the top of the political arena and the presidency, though certainly earned by his own merit, may have been cut short without the Jeri Ryan scandal working out in his favor. Read on to learn the when, where, how, and why of the situation.

Background. Actress Jeri Ryan, famous for her role in “Star Trek: Voyager”, married former Goldman Sachs executive and eventual Illinois politician Jack Ryan in 1991. In 1994, the two had a son together, and the couple divorced in 1999.

The 2004 Illinois Senatorial Campaign. In the Summer of 2004, the race for the vacant U.S. Senate seat from Illinois had turned into a showdown between then State Senator Barack Obama and Republican candidate Jack Ryan. Obama had won the Democratic primary comfortably, but Ryan was without a doubt a formidable opponent. He had a solid educational record and the impressive quality of leaving a lucrative career at Goldman Sachs to teach underprivileged children, only later become a politician. As the race heated up, the usual scrutiny about both candidates’ pasts surfaced. Though the two had agreed to keep testimony concerning the custody battle for their son under wraps,  it was made public in 2004.

Airing out Ryan’s dirty laundry. As the press got a hold of Jeri Ryan’s testimony, the situation dissolved into a media circus. Apparently, Ryan alleged that her husband had acted abusively many times throughout the marriage, pressuring her to participate in lewd acts at “sex clubs” in several cities at different points in time. For a candidate running on conservative principles, this news was devastating. Without much of a retort, the Jack Ryan campaign quickly began to crumble.

The fallout from the Jeri Ryan scandal. As news spread and the negative light cast over Jack Ryan intensified, the Republican party called for him to bow out of the race. With his numbers in the tank and his chances of winning at right around zero, Ryan did just that. The Republicans replaced him with the much weaker emergency candidate Alan Keyes, who lost handily to Barack Obama in the election – clearing the way for his rise to political prominence. Had the Jeri Ryan scandal not ruined her husband’s political career, it is possible that President Obama wouldn’t be sitting in the Oval Office today. So it goes without saying, in terms of significance, the Jeri Ryan scandal was about as big as celebrity scandals can be. 

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