In another age, Michael Richards would still be a comedian and Virginia Sen. George Allen would still be a powerful politician. But when Richards fell into a racist tirade at a comedy club and Allen dropped an obscure racial epithet during a stump speech, video cameras (one inside a cell phone) were there to capture the footage.
Mel Gibson (pictured) can't blame a hidden camera. The famous filmmaker embarrassed himself during a DUI stop in July by making crass, anti-Semitic remarks recorded on a police report that was leaked to the press.
Former Florida congressman Mark Foley's sexual words to male teenage interns earned him a swift exit from Washington, D.C., and cost Republicans in the November elections.
Jack Abramoff needed no help to plummet from the king of K Street to the federal slammer. Abramoff's lobbying scandal created collateral damage that helped tarnish former Christian Coalition leader and politician Ralph Reed and led to the conviction of former congressman Bob Ney (who faces up to 10 years in prison).
Others who fell into a pit of their own digging:
- Tom Delay, whose grand jury indictment on illegal fundraising forced him out of his post as House majority leader and to resign from Congress.
- Former Illinois Gov. George Ryan, who faced a six-and-a-half year conviction for dealing out illegal contracts but has stayed out of prison until his appeal can be heard.
- Former National Association of Evangelicals president and New Life Church pastor Ted Haggard, who had to leave both positions after a gay-sex and methamphetamine scandal broke just before the November election.
- Former California congressman Randy Cunningham, who began serving a 100-month sentence for bribery, mail fraud, and tax evasion related to his dubious activity on Capitol Hill.
- Democratic Rep. William Jefferson, whose Washington-area home was raided by FBI agents who found $90,000 in his freezer. Jefferson nonetheless went on to win reelection in his New Orleans congressional district.
- On the other side of the ocean, French soccer star Zinédine Zidane gave a head butt to Italian defender Marco Materazzi in July's World Cup final that came to be the defining moment of the much-watched series. With the game tied, 1-1, in overtime, Zidane, who had already scored and was set to retire from the sport, was tossed from the match-and Italy won a penalty-kick shootout.