politics & history House of Cards Plot Points That Happened IRL  

Lisa Waugh
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House of Cards doesn’t exist in a make believe world. It definitely taps into the real world of politics and power. Sure, Frank and Claire love to off people who get in their way, but there are some things on House of Cards that really happened. The notion that politics is show business has proven to be true time and again, especially if you watch a highlight reel of the 2016 Republican debates. Mom jabs, wife put-downs, slugfests, and alleged assault have been a mainstay in the election climate, so when Frank pushes a reporter in front of a train, one wonders how far off are we from that? Or has it already happened IRL and we just don’t know about it? 
House of Cards in real life can be eerie. Peter Russo’s many indiscretions and alcoholism reflect many a trainwreck elected to public office. The Underwoods' thirst for power has been hailed as accurate by a congressman. Even former President Bill Clinton says that House of Cards events in real life is “99% true.” But he and President Obama agree that the thing that rings false about the Netflix series is Frank Underwood’s efficiency. No president is getting that much done in one term, much less in one episode.
From “Emailgate” to the KKK, House of Cards proves that it’s in touch with the warped reality of American politics, as the plot points on this list show.

Gubernatorial Hopeful Peter Russo Tanks His Career with Booze and Escorts

Gubernatorial Hopeful Peter Ru... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list House of Cards Plot Points That Happened IRL
Photo: Netflix & Politico
In real life, Governor and former Attorney General of New York Eliot Spitzer is just one example of a politician ruining his career with his penchant for escorts. Things end for Russo in a carbon monoxide-filled car, while Spitzer’s political career ended in scandal when it was revealed that he was a regular patron of the Emperors Club VIP, an elite escort service. He was reported to have spent nearly $80,000 for said services. Spitzer resigned and never quite regained his political footing.

The Gaffney Peachoid Exists

The Gaffney Peachoid Exists is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list House of Cards Plot Points That Happened IRL
Photo: Stephen Largen/The Post and Courier
The Peachoid is a real water tower and landmark in Gaffney near the North Carolina border on I-85. The only upheaval it’s ever been involved with, besides being the literal butt of jokes, is when a maintenance crew sandblasted off the paint. People went ballistic. But, they were assured, the Peachoid was being repainted and would once again resemble a “baby’s butt with a rash.” On House of Cards, Frank defends the Peachoid from being torn down after a teenage girl dies texting about the water tower’s resemblance to a rear end.

Frank Underwood Messed with the Teachers Union

Frank Underwood Messed with th... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list House of Cards Plot Points That Happened IRL
Photo: Netflix & City of Chicago
And you don’t want to do that if you’re a politician. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez stepped in it over budget cuts and the handling of the police shooting of a 17-year-old student. Teachers threatened to go on strike for the first time in 25 years in 2016 and Emanuel’s approval rating hit an all-time low. Frank simply sweet-talked his way out of his trouble.

Frank Attended Lauded Military College The Sentinel

Frank Attended Lauded Military... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list House of Cards Plot Points That Happened IRL
Photo: Netflix & The Citadel
The Sentinel is most definitely a reference to the real life Citadel, also located in South Carolina. The Citadel is famous for churning out politicians including dozens of governors, representatives, a speaker of the House (Thomas H. Pope), and Chief Justice A. Lee Chandler.

Frank Shoves a Reporter in Front of a Train

Frank Shoves a Reporter in Fro... is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list House of Cards Plot Points That Happened IRL
Photo: Netflix & DonaldTrump.com
Trump probably wouldn’t shove a reporter in front of a train, but he did turn a blind eye to numerous assaults at campaign rallies across the country in 2016, held in public spaces. He also victim-blamed Bietbart reporter Michelle Fields after his campaign manager Corey Lewandowski was seen on camera pulling her sharply away from Trump when she tried to ask about Affirmative Action. A New York Times reporter witnessed the event up close. Lewandowski was charged with battery.

Frank’s KKK Skeleton in the Closet

Frank’s KKK Skeleton in the Cl... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list House of Cards Plot Points That Happened IRL
Photo: Netflix & CNN
2016 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump claimed to know nothing about former Grand Wizard David Duke’s support of his campaign. He claimed to have not heard the question about his reaction to Duke’s (and seemingly the KKK’s) endorsement due to a bad earpiece.  
When he was asked to respond to the ruckus caused by his hesitation to disavow Duke, Trump said, "I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don't know. I don't know - did he endorse me, or what's going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists."

Frank was more smooth about his father’s affiliation with the KKK and spun the image of his father posing with a Klansman as something his father had to do at the time to support his family.

Will Conway Makes the Contents of His Phone Available to the Public

Will Conway Makes the Contents... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list House of Cards Plot Points That Happened IRL
Photo: Netflix & The White House
In real life, Hillary Clinton made her emails on a private server available to Congress. The senator and 2016 Democratic presidential candidate spent a lot of time mired in “Emailgate,” to such a degree that her opposition, Senator Bernie Sanders said, “I’m sick and tired of hearing about your damn emails.” Conway makes his phone content public in order to quell rumors and fear about his relationship with Pollyhop. But he probably won’t have to talk about it as long as Clinton will.


ICO vs. ISIS is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list House of Cards Plot Points That Happened IRL
Photo: Netflix & Mother Jones
In real life, the FBI confirmed that ISIS targets and recruits American teens. Michael Steinbach, of the FBI’s counterterrorist devision, told CNN that tracking every American who might travel to join ISIS is difficult. "I'm worried about individuals that we don't know about that have training," Steinbach said. "We know what we know. But there is a number that's greater than that that we don't know." And then there’s the hometown terrorism. Attacks in Paris, Brussels, and San Bernadino highlight the alarm over homegrown attacks. On House of Cards, Frank and his team magically locate the two American members of ICO and use it as political leverage while the real battle with ISIS is unending.