How Bickering South Florida Models Brought Down a Presidential Campaign
Back in 1988, the Miami Herald published a story claiming that Colorado Senator and then Democratic presidential hopeful Gary Hart was having an affair with 29-year-old, Miami-based model Donna Rice. It ruined Hart's political career and presidential aspirations, and changed political reporting forever by affirming that a candidate's sex scandals were fair game for the press.
But the story of how exactly the story came to be has remained a mystery. Well, this weekend the New York Times finally exposed the tipster who had informed the Herald. Her name was Dana Weems, another former model and fashion designer.
Hart's alleged womanizing had been alluded to in the press before, and in April 1987 Herald political reporter Tom Fielder, now the dean of Boston University's College of Communications, penned a front-page story about how it was irresponsible of reporters to repeat the claims without any concrete proof.
After the piece went to print, Fielder received a call from a woman claiming to have that proof. She told Fielder that a friend of hers, latter identified as Rice, had started an affair with Hart aboard a yacht chartered from Turnberry Isle and had invited the woman to come visit him in Washington.
For years, many assumed the tipster was Lynn Armandt, a bikini boutique owner. She had later sold pictures of Rice sitting on Hart's lap to the National Enquirer, but Fielder told reporter Matt Bai that Armandt had not been his original source.
Rice herself told Bai that she believed the original source might have been a woman named Dana Weems, another friend of Armandt and hers, but she didn't know for sure.
So Bai called up Weems, still living in Hollywood and now confined to a wheelchair while battling multiple sclerosis, and she copped to it.
"Yeah," Weems told Bai. "That was me."
Weems said that she had been there the night Hart had originally met Rice aboard a boat party at Turnberry Isle. She claims that originally a drunken Hart had been hitting on her all night, but she refused his advances. So he settled for Rice instead.
She says had been a more successful and beautiful model than Rice, and that Rice was only "OK for commercials, I guess."
But Donna -- she had no standards, Weems told me. Weems figured Donna wanted to be the next Marilyn Monroe, sleeping her way into the inner sanctum of the White House, and that's why she agreed to go on the cruise to Bimini. After that weekend, Donna wouldn't shut up about Hart or give the pictures a rest. It all made Weems sick to her stomach, especially this idea of Hart's getting away with it and becoming president. "What an idiot you are!" Weems said, as if talking to Hart through the years. "You're gonna want to run the country? You moron!"
So Weems, with Armandt standing by her side, decided to call up Fielder and blab.
The Herald had reporters stake out Hart's D.C. townhouse and observed Rice coming out of it. Two days later it reported on the picture of Rice sitting on Hart's lap aboard the yacht, called "Monkey Business." The rest is history.