Thursday, March 13, 2008

Things that make you go hmmmm....

Something I noticed about the recent Eliot Spitzer scandal-- there was a distinct difference in how it was covered as compared to the Larry Craig and Mark Foley scandals.

With Larry Craig and Mark Foley the scandals were covered as:

Republican Senator Larry Craig
Republican Representative Mark Foley

With the Spitzer scandal (and former NJ governor McGreevey) the scandals were covered as:

NY state governor Eliot Spitzer (D)
NJ governor Jim McGreevey (D)

Does this imply that it's only a surprise when a Republican is involved in a sex scandal and that it's actually EXPECTED of Democrats to be involved in sex scandals? I do understand that thanks largely to the far right religious fringe the Republicans have come to be identified as the "family values" party therefore I do understand why it's bigger news when a Republican gets caught up in a sex scandal... But at the same time, covering politicians of the two different parties differently creates a perception-- rightly or wrongly-- that it's no big deal when a Democrat is scandalized because it's almost expected of them.

Either way it's a disservice to the American people. There are good and bad seeds in BOTH parties. Creating the perception that it's bigger news when politicians from one party are caught up in a scandal than when politicians from the other party are creates the misconception that one party is inherently less corrupt than the other. Corruption in politics knows no party lines.

Remember the Jack Abramoff scandal back in 2006. Initially it was labeled by the media as a Republican scandal (likely because Abramoff was/is a registered Republican)... until it was discovered that just as many Democrats had their hands in Abramoff's cookie jar as Republicans did... Then for some reason coverage of the "scandal" disappeared. Abramoff was a non-partisan lobbyist... for him it wasn't about Democrat or Republican it was all about the money.

This also ties into how the different parties handle scandals-- with the Republicans generally they hang their own out to dry. With Democrats there tends to be a "circling of the wagons" they rally around each other for support and they end up being able to stand up to and weather scandals far better than the Republicans. In fact I think the Spitzer and McGreevey cases show a shift away from that within the Democratic party... or perhaps it's only at the federal level that the Democrats circle the wagons... maybe it's just that they offer up their governors as their sacrificial lambs.


Dantallion said...

I think the problem is this: The media get remarkably horny for stories that involve hypocracy as part of the scandal. In Spitzer's case, they didn't have the 'Republican' moniker to make it more juicy. But I'll tell you, just about every story I saw underscored ad nauseam his record as a "tough, steam-rolling, no-nonsense corruption-breaking AG and governor" - which made his connection to the prostitution ring that much more scandalous and sexy. In the same vein, The Republican party has (fairly or unfairly) been stereotyped by the religious right and ultra conservative components of the party who often espouse holier-than-thou moral ground as a reason to attack those that would disagree with them. So when a Republican goes astray in such a scandal, the media gets to play the the hypocracy card yet again to sell more papers and increase those ratings.

What ensues is usually a free-for-all in the media that serves absolutley no good, followed by accusations from Democrats that the media is biased towards Republicans or vice versa, depending on what is the big scandal of the day.

Whether you're a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independant, the media's irresponsible bias toward sensationalism rather than actual reporting of the facts is doing extraordinary damage to our society, and they should be held accountable.

Perplexio said...

dantallion: You raise excellent points. The media repeatedly seems to miss the point on these scandals. Clinton wasn't impeached because of infidelity in the White House but because he lied about it under oath-- perjury is a crime.

Spitzer got in trouble not because he had sex with prostitutes (which is a crime in and of itself) but because of the money involved in paying for said prostitutes was ill-gotten and he transported a prostitute across state lines, a federal offense.

Oh and for scandalous governors... keep your eyes peeled on the news for Rod Blagoievich... The current governor of Illinois. His main campaign finance guy, Tony Rezko has been indicted (Barack Obama also has connections to Rezko-- although not as close connections and he's already given all the money he got from Rezko to charity)... I see Blagoievich being the next governor to be brought down by a scandal (much like his Republican predecessor, George Ryan, who is currently in prison-- Ryan holds the unique distinction of being nominated for a Nobel Prize for his moratorium on the death penalty in the state of Illinois the same year he was indicted for some shady financial dealings/patronage). The Blagoievich scandal will not get the same level of coverage however (unless it happens to bring down Obama as well) as it does not involve sex.

Lauren said...

It's funny to hear how the news of this is portrayed in other parts of the country. Here we do here DEMOCRAT and related to this story. Pataki was our governer for a VERY LONG TIME and people were sick of him and wanted a CHANGE and were so happy to vote in a Democrat. But I think in this case particularly it is mostly being swept under the rug because of his reputation for being such a bulldog on crime and being an exceptionally tough AG who pounded EVERYONE with his morals and that is the real story. Had he not stood for those issues so strongly for so long I think the issue of his political party would have been much more prominent.

Barbara said...

Great post Darrin. I think the media is largely Democratic so they love using the word "Republican" in front of a scandal, but not so much when its a Democrat.