Online Reputation Management Blog

Making Sense of the Petraeus Sex Scandal

America loves a good sex scandal.  It’s almost our national pastime, although I’m still a little more partial to baseball.  This Fall we had a little of both.  Though it’s hard to imagine anything overshadowing the 2012 Presidential election, one day after President Barack Obama scored a second term, the face on the cover of newspapers and magazines across the country was… General David Petraeus?  Let’s run through a quick catch up on this made for TV soap opera that has tarnished the reputation of the individuals involved as well as the U.S. Army, CIA and FBI. 

November 7 – No Time for President Obama to Celebrate –CIA Chief David Petraeus Resigns

On November 7, 2012 the Petraeus scandal broke, although it appears the investigation into General Petraeus began long before November 2012 and FBI director, Robert Mueller decided to hold the news of the scandal until after the Presidential election. The news, as expected, riveted the nation and glued people to their laptops, tablets and television screens to watch our most decorated soldier, spymaster and potential future Presidential candidate’s fall from grace.

General David Petraeus resigned his post as CIA chief after it was discovered he had an extra-marital affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell (a West Point graduate and former army intelligence officer).

The Christian Science Monitor reports, “The FBI ultimately chose not to pursue a criminal investigation of Petraeus because they determined no security breach had been committed. However, the seizure of reportedly classified documents from Broadwell’s home in Charlotte, N.C., marks a renewed expansion of the investigation.”

How Did the FBI Find Out About the Affair?

This is where the story gets (even more) complicated with tales of cybercrime, friendships, contacts, cancer foundations, and yes, another General under suspicion for “generally” inappropriate behavior.  According to numerous news reports, a Tampa-based socialite, mother of three, wife of a cancer surgeon and self-described diplomat (honorary counsel general to South Korea), Jill Kelley, reported to an officer at the FBI (an acquaintance of hers) that she was the victim of harassing emails from an anonymous source.

This FBI officer looked into Kelley’s concerns and revealed that the emails were actually from Paula Broadwell.  It was in the course of the email investigation that the FBI found evidence of the affair between Broadwell and General Petraeus.  Humphries knew he had hit upon something big – and over the course of six months the investigation became more sordid.  It appears that Kelley, who was friends with General Petraeus, was being harassed by an allegedly jealous Broadwell via email. 

Affectionate But Platonic

Another high-ranking officer, General John Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan suddenly finds himself embroiled in the Petraeus saga.  In the course of the FBI investigation it was alleged that General Allen and the earnest Kelley, had exchanged “affectionate emails” that led many to conclude that the two might be having an affair.  Time Magazine reports that 20,000 to 30,000 pages of messages between Kelley and General Allen have been discovered.

According the Christian Science Monitor, “Allen is currently under investigation by the Pentagon’s Office of Inspector General (IG), but remains in command. He has denied an improper relationship… But before the scandal broke, Allen was nominated to become Supreme Allied commander, Europe, and now, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has asked President Obama to put that nomination on hold, pending the Pentagon IG investigation.”

General Allen’s colleagues have come forward saying the messages were affectionate but platonic.

The Two Kelleys 

As the plot sickened, Jill Kelley and her husband, Dr. Scott Kelley, were under the media microscope.  The Doctor Kelley Cancer Foundation, which was started by the Kelleys for the purpose of cancer research and granting cancer patients’ wishes, was now being probed by the FBI –as investigators tried to figure out how deep and wide the Petraeus/Allen scandal had gone.  Investigations into the foundation reveal that that monies raised for said foundation were not exactly being used for cancer research, but rather for entertaining, according to Time Magazine.

Jill Kelley’s twin sister joined the sideshow when it turned out Jill Kelley managed to convince both Generals Petraeus and Allen to help her sister in a child custody suit after a District of Columbia Superior Court Judge had found the sister had “misrepresented virtually everything.”

Maybe It’s Time to Figure This Out

With two generals under investigation and dozens of private lives now scrutinized under the unrelenting spotlight of a 24/7 media, reputation management and crisis communications experts are wondering about what General Petraeus and General Allen should do next.  If past is prelude, this is just starting to get interesting…

About Todd William

Foodie. Bruce Springsteen fan. Citizen of Red Sox Nation. Online reputation management strategist. Founder of Reputation Rhino. For more, follow us @reputationrhino

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