Every Friday, we choose an alum who has been making headlines—for better or for worse.
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3/4/11: David Wu ’82JD


During the closing weeks of last fall’s election campaign—often nicknamed the “silly season”—some of US Representative David Wu ’82JD’s staffers felt he was acting too silly, in a serious way. Revelations of a “staff intervention,” in which the Oregon congressman’s employees tried to get him to a psychiatric hospital, have prompted calls for Wu’s resignation. The seven-term Democrat had “the worst week in Washington,” wrote a Washington Post columnist; the weekly Portland Tribune editorialized: “the almost daily revelations about Wu’s behavior are undermining public confidence in his ability to serve Oregon and the nation.”

The behavior included late-night e-mails to staff, written in the voice of Wu’s children and sent from his personal congressional account. One e-mail included a photo of Wu in his Halloween costume, a tiger suit. Wu has also admitted accepting prescription painkillers from a campaign donor. Six of his 20 staffers left after he won reelection.

Appearing on Good Morning America last week, Wu explained: “Last October was not a good month. It was very stressful,” combining campaigning with his duties as a single father. But “I’m in a good place now,” he insisted: he’s getting the counseling and medication he needs, and has no intention to step down.

While the controversy raises serious questions about mental illness, medical privacy, and an elected official’s duty to disclose, it appears Wu may weather the storm if his behavior stabilizes. After all, one supporter writes, “It’s not like he groomed a teenage intern for sex or got caught playing footsy in an airport lavatory. Besides, he’s going to turn these events into a teachable moment for all, urging everyone … to ‘seek help when they need it.’”


Filed under controversy, mental illness
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