December 10

This Day in History

General Interest

Dec 10, 1974:

Sex scandal involving Arkansas politician

Representative Wilbur D. Mills, a Democrat from Arkansas, resigns as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in the aftermath of the first truly public sex scandal in American politics.

On October 7, 1974, at 2 a.m., Mills was stopped by Washington park police while driving at night with his lights off. The 65-year-old representative, an influential congressman and married man, was visibly intoxicated, his face was scratched, and his companion, 38-year-old Annabell Battistella, had bruised eyes. Battistella then proceeded to jump into the Tidal Basin near the Jefferson Memorial and had to be pulled out by the police. She was later identified as a popular stripper who went by the names "Fanne Foxe" and the "Argentine Firecracker."

Congressmen had been involved in these types of improprieties before but the details were generally kept quiet, saving the politicians from public disgrace. However, on this occasion, the story of Representative Mills' sordid affair with the stripper was heavily publicized. At first, Mills denied all the allegations but later admitted he had joined a party Battistella was present at after "a few refreshments." Mills was subsequently reelected to Congress, but because of the escalating scandal, he was forced to retire his chairmanship and later announced that he would not run for reelection.

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