If it's in the News, it's in our Polls. Public opinion polling since 2003.


Madoff's Saddest Victim

A Commentary By Froma Harrop

Bernard Madoff went to jail for his stupendous financial con. His eldest son, Mark, has gone to oblivion, having hung himself from a dog leash on the second anniversary of his father's outing as perpetrator of a $20 billion con.  

Let us grieve awhile for a 47-year-old father of two who dramatically killed himself during this so-called season of joy. Mark Madoff had no angel Clarence -- as George Bailey had in "It's a Wonderful Life" -- to show him that his financial reversals did not make him worthless; that he had a loving family which depended on him. Mark's family was his tormenter.  

One doesn't know the extent of Mark's complicity in his father's fraud. The sons insist they knew nothing of it. Mark and his brother ran the legitimate trading arm of the Madoff business, which was separate from the father's crooked investment scheme.  

The sons reportedly haven't spoken with either parent since the scandal broke open. Before his death, a family spokesman said that "Mark remains unalterably bitter about his father's deception and the injury his father has caused." Whatever the case, a desire for revenge must have also driven Mark's carefully timed self-destruction. It is often said that suicide is anger turned 180 degrees. Mark may have wanted to exact the ultimate pain on his father. Sadly, one can't be sure that Bernie Madoff had feelings to be hurt.  

Mark's brother, Andrew, on the other hand, had been toughened up by his struggle with lymphoma. He had confronted a far more formidable foe than the loss of fortune and face.  

A discussion of betrayal, illness and death must include the tragedy of Elizabeth Edwards. She did not die unexpectedly -- her aggressive breast cancer had been spreading. But one can imagine that the tabloid coverage of her husband's crude infidelities had made her last days especially miserable.  

Like Madoff, former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards double-dealt both inside and outside his family circle. He pursued his sloppy affair as thousands were putting their money, sweat and faith into his campaign for president. (Suppose he had become the Democratic nominee, and then the vulgar details emerged.)  

Making the Edwards story tawdrier still was his use of Elizabeth's illness during the campaign to portray their troubled marriage as a romantic fairy tale. Elizabeth has said that she knew about the affair during the campaign, which made her complicit in the charade. Was it family loyalty of a complicated political kind? One thing is clear: She handled her physical and emotional pain with enormous grace.  

Back at the Madoff drama, the victims are seeking restitution from the sons and their children, as well. The Nantucket house that Mark and his wife bought for $6.5 million shortly before Bernie's arrest is on the market.  

But the sorrow caused by treachery is never all about money. Mark's college buddies had put their savings into the crooked Madoff investments, so these friends are gone. Mark had been trying without success to get another job. No one would touch him. And he was said to be "distraught" over suggestions that he was part of the fraud.  

While Andrew's chief interests had moved to a foundation involved in lymphoma research, Mark was made the face of the Madoff enterprises. When some questioned the source of the enormous returns on Madoff investments, Mark was given the job of publicly defending the company. We may never learn all he knew, but there is little doubt that his father used him.  

Like other Madoff victims, Mark lost money. Unlike them, he suffered the cruelest form of betrayal. He was his father's saddest victim.  



Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. 

See Other Political Commentary.

See Other Commentaries by Froma Harrop.

Rasmussen Reports is a media company specializing in the collection, publication and distribution of public opinion information.

We conduct public opinion polls on a variety of topics to inform our audience on events in the news and other topics of interest. To ensure editorial control and independence, we pay for the polls ourselves and generate revenue through the sale of subscriptions, sponsorships, and advertising. Nightly polling on politics, business and lifestyle topics provides the content to update the Rasmussen Reports web site many times each day. If it's in the news, it's in our polls. Additionally, the data drives a daily update newsletter and various media outlets across the country.

Some information, including the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll and commentaries are available for free to the general public. Subscriptions are available for $4.95 a month or 34.95 a year that provide subscribers with exclusive access to more than 20 stories per week on upcoming elections, consumer confidence, and issues that affect us all. For those who are really into the numbers, Platinum Members can review demographic crosstabs and a full history of our data.

To learn more about our methodology, click here.