Republican John Warner liked to take a dip in the Senate pool – all Warner, au naturel, and not even a hint of a bathing suit. The former Secretary of the Navy in the early 70s and a five-term U.S. Senator from Virginia would dump the trunks and ease into the Olympic-size pool, and why not, no girls were allowed. But this is Capitol Hill Mr. Warner, not the Roman bathhouses.
As surprising as Warner’s skinny dip may be, he wasn’t the only Senator to enjoy the congressional “perk.” A number of unnamed political boys got their nudie pool kicks – this according to Liz Mundy of Politico Magazine. That is, until the newly arrived North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan “exposed” the practice and put the kibosh on the bottomless soaks.
Writes Politico’s Liz Mundy in her Jan. 5 piece The Secret History of Women in the Senate: “Kay Hagan just wanted to swim. It was late 2008, and the Democrat was newly arrived on Capitol Hill as North Carolina’s junior senator-elect. But Hagan was told that the Senate pool was males-only. Why? Because some of the male senators liked to swim naked.
“It took an intervention by Senator Chuck Schumer, head of the Rules Committee, to put a stop to the practice, but even then ‘it was a fight,’ remembers pollster Celinda Lake, who heard about the incident when the pool revolt was the talk among Washington women.”
In fact, Mundy says the women’s restroom near the Senate floor had only two stalls, making “restroom traffic jams commonplace,” and “forcing some of the female senators to traipse to a first-floor restroom far from the chamber.” Not too surprising really – the first female Senator took her seat in 1922, but it wasn’t until 2011 that she was joined by double-digit female friends.
Hagan herself spoke about her rookie swimgate experience. In 2009, Hagan was a guest speaker at a pro-choice women’s luncheon in Washington, and called attention to the small act of pool discrimination.
“Imagine my surprise when I tried to use the Senate members’ gym recently and found out that there is a pool, but — guess what — it’s only for the men,” she said.
According to TheSpreadIt, the retired Warner “never commented on the naked swim story. But Eva Malecki, communications officer for the Architect of the Capitol, was quick to issue a statement denying the story. Malecki claimed that Hagan was ill-informed.”
Said Malecki: “The Senate gym is a co-ed facility for senators. There are no rules prohibiting women senators from using the pool.”
No written rules. But since when do Senators ever follow the rules?