John Wilson Jenrette, Jr. (born May 19, 1936) is a former American politician from South Carolina. He served in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat from January 1975 until December 1980. He was convicted of accepting a bribe in the FBI's Abscam operation.
Jenrette was born in Horry County, South Carolina in 1936. He graduated from Loris High School, Loris, South Carolina in 1954. He then earned a B.A. at Wofford College in 1958. After graduating from law school at the University of South Carolina, worked as a city attorney, then a judge, as he attempted to reach higher office. Jenrette was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1964, where he represented his native town of Myrtle Beach.
Jenrette retired from the state house to run for a seat in the U.S. House in 1972. Jenrette defeated seventeen-term Congressman John L. McMillan in the primary, but lost the general election to Republican Edward Lunn Young. Undaunted, Jenrette ran for the same seat in 1974. In part because of the extreme unpopularity of the Republicans following the Watergate scandal, Jenrette unseated Young.
Jenrette, a liberal, seemed out of place representing his rather conservative waterfront congressional district. However, he was locally well-known, and the South Carolina Republican Party was not especially well-organized at the time in that part of the state. Jenrette easily defeated Young again in 1976 and was unopposed in 1978.
Jenrette is most famous for two actions during his days as a Congressman. First, he had sex with his then-wife, Rita Jenrette, behind a pillar on the steps of the Capitol Building during a break in a late night session of Congress. (The comedy group "Capitol Steps" take their name from this escapade.) Second, he was charged with and convicted for accepting a $50,000 bribe in the FBI Abscam sting operation conducted by the FBI in 1980. Jenrette was sentenced to two years in prison, of which he served 13 months. He had not been videotaped taking bribes, as some of his colleagues had, but he was recorded saying he'd been given cash by an associate. His wife, Rita, separated from him in January 1981 and the two divorced later the same year.
Jenrette was defeated for reelection in 1980 and resigned from Congress on December 10, just days before the end of his term. He subsequently ran a public-relations firm called Lehuguenot, Ltd., in his native Myrtle Beach, and developed property in nearby Cherry Grove. In 1989 he was apprehended after shoplifting a necktie from a department store in Bailey's Crossroads, Virginia; convicted of a misdemeanor, he was sentenced to serve 30 days in a local jail.
In late 2007 John Jenrette met Kluckin Films while they were filming a scene on the beach for 'The Bleeding', just outside his Myrtle Beach home, while he was walking his dog. The unsuspecting film crew were greeted with kindness as John gave them towels to clean up the bloody Leakers. The local film crew really had no idea who they were talking with, until after they left. Kluckin Films Vice Klucker, Priestess Kandi Ranson, called upon John Jenrette about a week later and offered him a role as The President of The United States of America, in 'The Bleeding', which he gladly accepted. The scene was filmed a few weeks later in his Myrtle Beach home office. The Bleeding, By Kluckin Films was released in 2008.
- John Jenrette at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- Profile from Congressional Bad Boys
- The Washington Post "Destination Scandal" tour of DC
- The Hill, May 29, 2002
- The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), November 17, 1999
- The Post and Courier (Charleston, SC), July 22, 2000
|United States House of Representatives|
Edward Lunn Young
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 6th congressional district
John Light Napier