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Silda Wall Spitzer Not the First Political Wife to Endure Pain of Spouse's Scandal

Pearls, power ties and powder-blue designer suits.

It appears to be the look of embarrassed New York-area first wives as they stand beside their scandalized political husbands.

Witness Monday's eerie flashback to 2004, when Dina Matos McGreevey stood, obviously shell-shocked — wearing pearls and a light blue Chanel-style jacket — as her husband, then-New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey, announced that he was "a gay American" and would resign.

Just as McGreevey had done four years earlier, New York First Lady Silda Wall Spitzer stood frozen on Monday — dressed in pearls and a light blue Chanel-style jacket — as her husband, New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, apologized for what is believed to be a series of sexual trysts with high-priced call girls.

Click here for photos of political wives rocked by scandal.

Even more coincidental: Both governors opted for red-and-white-striped power ties to go with their dark suits.

Both women are far from the first political wives to publicly endure the pain of their spouse's illicit sexual encounters.

A coterie of wives has confronted the public pain of such an accusation.

Hillary Rodham Clinton, the New York senator and former first lady who is battling Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination, memorably insisted to CBS's "60 Minutes" during the 1992 campaign: "I'm not sitting here, some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette." She sat beside Bill Clinton, dressed smartly in a green suit during the interview.

And there was her cool demeanor, six years later, in a suit and pearls, at the news conference where her husband declared of Monica Lewinsky: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."

Clinton made this barbed observation to the journalists who were present, "I'm pleased to see so many people in attendance who care about child care," a reference to the reason the news conference had been arranged.

Few political wives are considered strong women, said Stanley Renshon, a political psychologist at City University of New York.

"Hillary Clinton would certainly fit. Michelle Obama would certainly fit. Cindy McCain would certainly fit, from all indications," Renshon said. "You don't expect them to feel either shell-shocked or look like a deer caught in the headlights. It's not in their nature, because they're strong women."

The scene has played out time and again in politics, although the circumstances vary:

— Idaho Sen. Larry Craig's wife, Suzanne, stood silently as he denied last summer that he had propositioned a man in the stall of an airport bathroom. Her expression was obscured by large sunglasses.

— Louisiana Rep. David Vitter apologized last summer after being linked to a Washington escort service. As reporters demanded to know whether he had any sexual relationship, his wife, Wendy, seized the podium, calling her husband "my best friend" and saying that forgiveness "is the right choice for me." Ironically, Wendy Vitter had predicted years ago that she would act more like knife-wielding Lorena Bobbitt than Hillary Clinton if her husband strayed.

— Carlita Kilpatrick, seated next to her husband, Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, touched his knee as he publicly apologized to his family amid a scandal over intimate and sexually explicit text messages involving him and his top aide. "Yes, I am angry, I am hurt and I am disappointed. But there is no question that I love my husband."

— Dina Matos McGreevey stood by her husband as he resigned as governor of New Jersey in 2004. He said later he stepped down rather than succumb to a $50 million blackmail threat from a male former lover. She wrote a tell-all book after they divorced.

— Lee Hart, after her husband, Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, was linked to model Donna Rice during his presidential campaign, insisted to reporters in 1987: "When Gary says nothing happened, nothing happened."

How they responded "depends on the allegation, and it depends on the spouse," Renshon said.

Their comments are an important part of any candidate's response when such an accusation arises, he said.

"The allegation of infidelity is still a powerful allegation, and it remains powerful because it's about trust and responsibility, the idea that if you're cheating on your spouse, what can we expect of you in the presidency," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.