Sunday, May 26, 2024

Ken Henderson is Even Worse than You Might Think

Way back in this blog’s infancy, during the 2010 campaign cycle, we frequently mentioned that Tim Wooldridge was a terrible human being. It got to the point where, any time we referred to Wooldridge, it would be “noted horrible person Tim Wooldridge.”1

Later, as we became more mature — or, more accurately, as it became easier to just note the ones who were not horrible people — we stopped applying that label as often, choosing instead to do things like listing all of the specific ways Jason Rapert is terrible. But, just like the Nokia 3310 and a constant fear of nuclear annihilation, what one was old is new again, and we now have a new Noted Horrible Person. Indeed, this guy might be in the running for Absolute Worst Person in Arkansas (Non-Rapert Edition).

I’m talking about Rep. Ken Henderson (R-Russellville).

As noted on Tuesday, Henderson began an extramarital affair with Rep. Laurie Rushing (R-Hot Springs) some time after the two were elected in 2014 (and took office in January 2015). That’s never a good thing, but it certainly isn’t enough to push Henderson to the front of the Garbage Human line. At least not without some context…

After the first story was posted on Tuesday, four different people familiar with the situation contacted me and told me that I should look into the timing of the affair and Henderson’s wife’s health at the time. A quick Facebook search turned up her page and, by extension, a blog that she had been writing since early 2015.

It turns out, in 2014, Henderson’s wife was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis, an autoimmune disease that causes severe muscle weakness and fatigue. In early January 2015, Henderson’s wife, a medical doctor, began a blog to document her struggles with this disease. An early post on that blog notes:

Before June 2014, everything in my world seemed right and good. My career as an obstetrician/gynecologist was at its peak. I have been happily married to my high school sweetheart for over thirty years. My children are grown, getting along well and succeeding in their chosen paths. I have a great sister and parents and lots of friends. I was in the best physical shape of my life, literally able to pedal my road bicycle to the top of a mountain. Life was good. I was strong, happy, healthy and independent.

In another early post from late January 2015, she describes what the disease feels like and why, despite that, she pushes forward:

It feels like concrete is being poured into my body. The more I try to do, the weaker I am. Sometimes I resemble a rag doll – limp, unable to move. You see me when I am at my best, but even when I am out, I usually say I am propped up.


Please don’t feel sorry for me. I am truly blessed. I had fifty years of perfect health. I was able to jump on the trampoline, roller blade and play kick ball with my kids, who are now grown. I have a husband who takes really good care of me.

A particularly poignant entry from June 2015, the day after their thirty-first wedding anniversary, jumps out in retrospect:

Now we are in the sickness and health phase. I never saw it coming. […] Myasthenia gravis derailed my vision of our future, but thankfully it did not derail my marriage. Seventy-five percent of marriages end in divorce if one has a chronic illness.

For that first year after being diagnosed, Henderson’s wife “intermittently used a wheelchair or scooter and consistently parked in handicapped parking, IF [she] was even strong enough to get out of the house.” Even after that year, though, she has “good days and bad days.”

 I do miss unlimited strength, the ability to exercise and consistently feeling good. I force myself to focus on the joys of sitting on the porch, drinking a leisurely cup of coffee, mani/pedis, time with my kids, lunch with friends, blogging, speaking and writing.

It is hard to say exactly when she found out about Henderson’s affair, but there are clues. The initial petition for separate maintenance notes that the couple last lived together on September 16, 2016, but a number of posts suggest that she knew long before that. She wrote that, on Valentine’s Day 2016

 the red and pink hearts were blurred by tears as I stood in the aisle looking for a suitable card. Problem is, I wasn’t living a Hallmark life. Finally, I settled on one that didn’t tell a non-existent fairy tale and signed it.

A post from early January 2016 states rather poetically, “The knife in the back is not nearly as painful as the twisting of the blade. Without emergency attention, betrayal is a critical wound, but unforgiveness is fatal.”

An August 2015 post uses the past tense when talking about “date night” with her husband. But, as quoted above, a June 2015 post talks about how grateful she is that the disease had not wrecked her marriage. So a safe guess would seem to be that she found out sometime between June and August of 2015.

Finding out your husband has been cheating on you while you’ve been dealing with a serious disease that leaves you wheelchair-bound at times cannot be easy. (That’s an understatement.) So it’s impressive to see how much class and grace she showed in handling that news, at least publicly. There are numerous posts about being sad that life had not always worked out how she had hoped, but how her faith had carried her through those times. There are posts about finding forgiveness in her heart, even when it feels impossible. And, perhaps most tellingly, there are NO posts that directly call out Henderson in any way. It’s an impressive show of restraint from a woman who owed him nothing of the sort.

But that becomes even more impressive when you compare that June-August 2015 window the the timeline that we know about from the public record as well a specific dates in her posts. She became sometime in the second half of 2014 while her husband was running for office, and she spent most of the next year frequently immobile or with limited mobility. She then found out in mid-2015 that Henderson was having an affair and, yet, she was still working toward forgiving Henderson in early 2016, even though Henderson and Laurie Rushing went to the Excellence in Education conference together in late 2015.

It was not until September 2016 (according to the initial petition for separate maintenance) that Henderson and his wife stopped living together. Even then, she wasn’t asking for a divorce — just maintenance while they were separated. Henderson and Rushing then go to the Excellence in Education conference together again in late 2016 and, by December 30, 2016, Henderson’s wife amends her earlier complaint and asks for a divorce. You can understand then why Henderson’s wife might have (allegedly) been irked about where Henderson was sitting in the House of Representatives in January 2017:

All of this was going on even as she required seven-hour-long infusions every three weeks ” cause[d] headaches and fatigue” and left her for a couple of days feeling “like I’ve just done an Ironman.” Around this same time, her dad’s cancer became markedly worse as well. She went in for another surgery on her neck in May 2017.

Point being, after 30 years of marriage, and at a time when his wife needed him and believed that he was always going to be there with her, Ken Henderson began cheating on her with Laurie Rushing.

Infidelity on its own is not normally news. (That’s definitely true if rumors about other legislators are to be believed.) But infidelity coupled with hypocrisy is news. And infidelity and hypocrisy coupled with an abject lack of sympathy for the feelings or needs of an ill spouse is both newsworthy and disgusting.

  1. Who, by the way, is not a carburetor, in case you were wondering.

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