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February 15, 2004

A Tale of two scandals

Mark Steyn has an interesting column in today's Telegraph talking about the two "scandals" roiling the waters of the US presidential race these days; John Kerry's intern and George Bush's National Guard record.   Steyn's take on both faux scandals is sound and I generally agree with him.   But one comment struck me as interesting:

...let's consider the Kerry scandal: If you read the British newspapers, you'll know all about it. It's not about whether he was Absent Without Leave, but the more familiar political failing of being Absent Without Pants. It concerns a 24-year old woman - ie, 41 years younger than Mrs Kerry - and, with their usual efficiency, the Fleet Street lads have already interviewed her dad, who's called Kerry a "sleazeball". But if you read the US newspapers or watch the news shows there's not a word about the Senator's scandal.
In many ways it is almost the exact opposite of the recent case with the "Bonnie Prince Charlie" scandal, which was the subject of elliptical references in the British media but open discussion (at least until the NY Times decided to yank the story from their website) here in the U.S.   It is also an interesting demonstration of the power of the internet and a lesson for the journalists debating the ethics of not reporting widely known facts that lack a legitimate "news hook".   (Clinton's affair with Monica was newsworthy because he lied about it under oath in a civil rights lawsuit.   His longstanding affair with Little Rock singer Gennifer Flowers wasn't because it was a private indiscretion.)   In the end, it all comes out; so why play games with your readers?

I suspect that unless Theresa Heinz abandons her husband over the issue (not very likely) or if there is some evidence of coercion or abuse of the young woman in question, most Americans won't give a damn about who Kerry is sleeping with.   Pretending that the rumors don't exist or are beneath the notice of polite society only makes the story more appealing to people eager for insider gossip.   The mainstream press would be better off simply reporting on the allegations and letting people make up their own minds on their significance.

February 15, 2004 at 02:28 AM | Permalink


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