Jack Ryan is a U.S. politician who previously ran against Barack Obama in the 2004 General Election before withdrawing after the media forced the unsealing of his divorce files, causing his support to plummet.
2004 General Election
In 2004 Obama found himself trailing to popular frontrunner Jack Ryan, and once again a candidate's campaign imploded thanks to media intervention. In an unprecedented move, the Chicago Tribune and local TV station WLS sued to force the unsealing of Ryan's divorce files, despite opposition from both Ryan and his wife, Jeri Ryan, who in the files accused Jack Ryan of trying to coerce her to perform sex acts in public. Though Ryan advisors told him he could still win if using a negative attack on Obama, Ryan refused:
|“|| "It's clear to me that a vigorous debate on the issues most likely could not take place if I remain in the race. What would take place, rather, is a brutal, scorched-earth campaign — the kind of campaign that has turned off so many voters, the kind of politics I refuse to play... I won't do that, that's not me."
Ryan then dropped out of the race (per request by the Illinois GOP), following which the Illinois GOP scrambled to find a replacement, leaving Obama uncontested for weeks to campaign and build up public support. On top of all this, Obama was selected to give the keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention (July 27), catapulting him into the national spotlight, and leading to further media publicity terming him a "rising star".
|“|| "And what was totally unprecedented in US politics is a paper suing to get access to sealed custody documents, sealed divorce records. No real precedent for that happening. Senator Kerry, for instance, has sealed divorce records and they’re not asking him to turn them over. After I dropped out of the race, people would say, 'Hey, since Senator Kerry has sealed divorce records and they sued to have yours opened, in fairness, shouldn’t they sue to have Senator Kerry’s records opened?' And I said absolutely not. That’s the exact wrong thing to do. Just because it happened to me, it doesn’t mean that it should be the new standard. This is the new low for politics in America. We’re not going to ask everyone who is divorced to turn over what was said between spouses in the divorce hearing to the press. It’s hard enough to get people to run for office as it is. If we now expect people to turn over their marriage counseling records, you know if a husband and wife go to marriage counseling because things aren’t going well, or turn over divorce records, we’ll get nobody to run for office. This is just a horrible precedent. So, I was saying that we should stop here, let me be the only person this has happened to. Don’t ask for Ted Kennedy’s. Don’t ask for John McCain’s. Don’t ask for Joe Lieberman’s. Just stop. This is not a good precedent for American society if you really want the best and brightest to run."
- Associated Press (2004, June 26). "Jack Ryan Abandons Senate Bid."
- Sangwan, Rahul (2004, October 1). "Jack Ryan '81: The Conservative Idealist." Dartmouth Independent.
- Washington Post (2004, June 26). "Illinois Senate Candidate Barack Obama."
- Page, Susan & Despoignes, Peronet (2004, July 28). "Rising Star Brings Democrats to Their Feet." USA Today.