A Flood of Gates

The famous Watergate complex in Washington DC where events led to the eventual resignation of US President Richard Nixon.

I see Boris Johnson is embroiled in Partygate, having to explain to Parliament why, at a time when everyone else in the UK was in Covid lockdown and isolation, he and his missus and fellow denizens of 10 Downing Street were having collective fun and drinkies. 

That the affair has been dubbed Partygate was inevitable.  Whenever there’s a fuss or a tizz involving famous people it is inevitably dubbed Whatever-gate.  Even young folks, who probably couldn’t tell you what Watergate was all about, know that whenever the suffix ‘gate’ comes after a word such as, say, pizza, it denotes some kind of scandal.  And yes, there is a Pizzagate.  Of that more later.

It all started in 1972, with the break-in at the Watergate building in Washington DC by shadowy types connected to Richard Nixon’s re-election campaign.  Since then the gate meme has gone viral.  I’ve been keeping a loose count over the years. 

Irangate and Contragate may have been the first spawn of Watergate.  They refer to the same thing: the Reagan administration’s breathtakingly cynical idea to sell arms to Iran to fund Contra rebel forces in Nicaragua.  That was in the 80s. 

In the 90s came Skategate (or Tonyagate), in which skater Tonya Harding allegedly hired someone to kneecap her rival Nancy Kerrigan.   

The same decade saw Bill and Hillary Clinton generate a slew of gates, possibly setting a world record between them. There was Monicagate, and I needn’t remind anyone over 50 what that was about.  Then came Nannygate, which brought down members of the Clinton administration who’d been exempting themselves from payroll tax on their domestic servants. 

My favourite Gate is a Clinton one.  During his presidency they were grilled over a property development deal in Arkansas called Whitewater. The imbroglio was dubbed ‘Whitewatergate’. Good, isn’t it? 

On leaving office, they were accused of accepting money in exchange for presidential pardons.  Ergo Pardongate.  Hillarygate came in the 2000s, when the then Secretary of State was caught using her home email for work stuff.  On looking this one up to check details I found a 2017 online headline asking ‘Is Russiagate really Hillarygate?’ but I haven’t got the time or space to untangle that mess! 

Hillary Clinton also figures in Pizzagate, a bizarre conspiracy theory that went viral during the 2016 presidential campaign, when Wikileaks publishing hacked campaign emails supposedly containing coded messages connecting the Democrats with a human trafficking and child sex ring operating out of the Comet Ping Pong pizzeria in Washington D.C. 

You couldn’t make this stuff up.  But someone did, and Pizzagate is thought to be the forerunner of various wacky QAnon conspiracy theories. 

Across the Atlantic we had Squidgygate and Camillagate (also known as Tampongate), both of which erupted during the marital woes of the then Prince and Princess of Wales.  Squidgy was the cringe-making nickname bestowed on her by one of Diana’s boyfriends, the gin heir James Gilbey.  Tampongate was…well, the less said about this outrageous invasion of privacy the better. How would you like it if your pillow-talk was illegally recorded and broadcast to all and sundry?

Here in Australia we took to gate-making with relish.  Here are some of the more notable ones in rough chronological order, starting from the 90s. 

Kellygate: One of several attributed to Labor Minister Ros Kelly, the main one being what was possibly Australia’s first sports rorts affair.       

Sandwichgate: then Federal Industry Minister Alan Griffiths is accused of using electoral office funds to bail out his failing sandwich shop venture.

Mategate:  Labor heavyweight Graham ‘Richo’ Richardson is accused of trying to help a mate in legal trouble in the Marshall Islands.

Where sport and politics meet, we had Speedogate, where Peter Debnam and Tony Abbott were both mocked for wearing budgie smugglers.  

Sport is full of Gates.  Cricket’s given us Umpiregate, Monkeygate and Sandpapergate.  From Aussie Rules came Thorburngate, when Essendon CEO Andrew Thorburn resigned because of his church’s views on homosexuality and abortion. 

Moving into recent history we’ve got Slug-gate, an intriguing case from 2019 in which a Victorian council was accused of deliberately contaminating hospital food in order to shut down a catering company.   

On the world stage, Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the 2021 Oscars and gave us Slapgate.    

Last year brought a home-grown Tasmanian specimen.  When a union official was banned from sharing Tim Tams on school visits, school staff scoffed a big pile of them in solidarity.  The union dubbed it TimTam Gate.    

I’d thought that was the last of them, but hold the front page!  Last Saturday someone asked why there was no sausage sizzle at one of the NSW election booths.  Sausagegate! 

This article was first published in the New Norfolk and Derwent Valley News on 31.3.23