Cognitive dissonance is a discomfort caused by holding conflicting cognitions
(e.g., ideas, beliefs, values, emotional reactions) simultaneously.
...people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance
by altering existing cognitions or adding new ones
to create a consistent belief system.
"Look at John Edwards.
He was having a fairly open affair during his campaign,
or at least if he had been a Republican candidate
the press would have written reams about this woman
he had hired as a videographer who went everywhere with him.
It was not normal, but Edwards is a Democrat
so the press protected him as much as possible.
But Edwards spent millions of dollars
to try and keep the affair and his mistress hidden
so he could continue to run,
and now it appears there is a good chance that he will go to jail
because he couldn't just quit the campaign and straighten out his personal life.
Even if he isn't convicted of anything,
...his reputation is ruined."