As we reported over the weekend, U.S. Rep. David Wu's behavior grew to be so erratic and disturbing during the final weeks of his re-election campaign last November, the Oregon Democrat's staff and advisers staged "interventions" to encourage him to seek psychiatric help.
The Willamette Week broke the story on Friday afternoon after the congressman responded to the claims.
Wu, a former lawyer and graduate of Sanford University and Yale Law School, has served in Congress since 1999. But his disturbing behavior last fall led his campaign staff to deliberately keep him out of public view until after the votes were all cast, the WW reports.
Wu was initially confronted by staffers who staged the first “intervention” last year on Oct. 28. The emotional meeting reportedly spanned several hours as staffers told the congressman they were worried about his health.
Now, emails and photographs obtained by WW continue to shed a disturbing light on the congressman's mental state. Two days after the staff "intervention," a photo was emailed from the congressman's Blackberry which showed Wu posing in a fuzzy tiger costume. The photo was sent his female staffers at around 1:30am on Saturday, October 30:
Following the picture, more emails were sent from Wu to his staffers:
Nineteen minutes later, at 1:22 am PST, a second email from Wu’s official email address went to multiple Wu staffers under the subject line “not funny.”
The email read as if it had come from one of Wu’s two children; the name of his middle-school-age daughter appeared at the end of it as a signature. But it’s not clear whether she sent the email in the wee hours of the morning or did so at the request of her father. Another possibility—the one that apparently disturbed staffers—is that Wu sent the email on his own, pretending to be his child. In any case, the email suggests Wu had been sparring with his staff.
“You’re the best, but my Dad made me say that, even though you threatened to shut down his campaign.”
Ten minutes later a third email went to two female staffers. This time, it contained another photo and a similar “you’re the best” message. The name of Wu’s son appeared at the bottom of that email.
Whether the photo depicted a staged or real event is uncertain. Someone who appears to be Wu is in the full-body tiger costume. He is face-down on a made bed with his arms at his side, as if asleep or passed out.
A wallet and headphones are strewn next to him on the bed. Behind him, a child who appears to be Wu’s 13-year-old son stands beside the bed dressed in a T-shirt and khaki pants with his hands on Wu’s shoulders. It is not evident whether the boy is trying to wake his father, give him a back rub or play along with a joke.
Six minutes later, at 1:38 am, a fourth email arrived in staffers’ inboxes. The content related to Wu’s drinking. The subject line contained one word: “wasted.”
The email, with Wu’s son’s name at the end, said: “My Dad said you said he was wasted Wednesday night after just three sips of wine. It’s just that he hasn’t had a drink since July 1. Cut him some slack, man. What he does when he’s wasted is send emails, not harass people he works with. He works SO hard for you … Cut the dude some slack, man. Just kidding.” ...
Then, at 1:40 am, a fifth email from Wu’s BlackBerry arrived with both children’s names at the end of the message. It appears to have been directed at one of Wu’s many longtime staffers, some of whom had worked for the congressman for about 12 years.
“My Dad says you’re the best because not even my Mom put up with him,” the email said. “[Y]ou have. We think you’re cool.”
Until announcing their separation in 2009, Wu and his second wife, Michelle, 48, had been married for about 13 years.
Staffers told WW they believe Wu wrote the emails himself and pretended they had been written by his kids.
Wu has since denied requests from WW for a face-to-face interview, opting instead to respond to questions in writing.
“I freely admit that it was an intense campaign, and I was not always at my best with staff or constituents,” he said through a spokesman on Feb. 14. “For all those moments, I wish I’d been better and I apologize.”
Wu then went on to score a big victory -- his sixth -- on Nov. 2 over GOP challenger Rob Cornilles in the largely Democratic First Congressional District, 55 percent to 42 percent.
Since his electoral victor, a number of his staffers have resigned. On Jan. 19, The Oregonian counted the departures of six congressional staffers and two consultants since the election. The paper also noted Wu's "bursts of puzzling public behavior":
"On Oct. 27, [Wu] gave a speech so negative and loud that a Washington County Democratic Party member complained formally to his office,” the daily newspaper reported. “The outburst was followed two days later by an episode at Portland International Airport, where Wu used his influence as a member of Congress to enter a restricted area and campaign for votes from off-loading passengers.”
Was the congressman, as one Wu spokesman speculated, just "joshing around with his kids the day before Halloween"? Or does his "puzzling" pattern behavior suggest something else?
On Friday, the congressman admitted to local KATU that he has sought professional help from a doctor, but offered few other details:
“To address my behavior and its consequences, I sought professional medical care and continue to obtain professional help from my doctor. Some of my stress was derived from a very tough campaign, but I was also dealing with raising two children alone and the death of my father.”
[Wu] also apologized, writing that he was “not always at my best with staff or constituents” and that he could have dealt with these difficult circumstances better.