Earlier this month, The New York Times wrote in a profile of Ruth Madoff that “she has become perhaps the most vilified spouse of a financial rogue in history.” The Times continued in “The Loneliest Woman in New York”:
life was also ruined. Although no evidence has emerged to date that she conspired or even knew about her husband’s crimes, her plight has evoked no apparent public sympathy. She has been pilloried and turned into a pariah.
The wives of other notorious criminals, like Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken and Nicholas Leeson, endured rough social sledding but eventually emerged with new careers and new friends. It’s not as if they couldn’t still go out and have their hair done. There wasn’t quite the same pack of gleeful tabloid photographers as there was, say, when Mrs. Madoff bought cheese in the supermarket a few months ago.
By contrast, the public reaction to Mrs. Madoff has been white hot and vitriolic. Rightly or wrongly, she is viewed as an unrepentant beneficiary of ill-gotten wealth, a petite and well-dressed embodiment of the collective, bloated greed that helped topple the stock market and the housing industry.
“She’s perceived as the succubus to Bernie’s incubus,” said Prof. Richard A. Shweder, a cultural anthropologist at the University of Chicago. “She was inside a circle of people whose wealth has been sucked out of the system.”
The evidence: Ruth Madoff’s high-brow hairdresser told her to get her highlights elsewhere. And now, according to the the New York Post, Madoff, who last week agreed with federal prosecutors to sell their Manhattan apartment, can’t find a room for rent. No landlords want her; even using her maiden name isn’t helping.
“She has nowhere to go,” a broker told the Post. “No one wants someone with her name in their building. People like their privacy.”