Jewish World Review Oct. 9, 2003 /13 Tishrei, 5764
The politics of groping and the groping of politics
As the editor of the magazine that broke the
Troopergate stories, I have endured a decade of lectures from journalism's
bulging choir of ethicists. In the Troopergate stories, The American
Spectator had Arkansas state troopers attesting to Boy Clinton's
philandering and to more serious matters, to wit: his misuse of government
employees, misuse of government offices and vehicles, and even his misuse of
government credit cards. All the troopers' stories were verified by
documentation or by other witnesses' accounts.
Moreover, the Boy President's ithyphallic behavior continued in
the White House, as was made luridly clear with the 1998 national debut of
Monica Lewinsky. More importantly, it is increasingly apparent that while
the president was attending to the cuties, his government was failing to
attend to national security.
Nonetheless, I have for a decade been lectured to by the high
priests of journalism about my deplorable ethics. Sex, I am told, is a
private matter. The fact that unethical and occasionally illegal behavior is
employed in pursuit of sex does not change the essential privacy of the
sexual acts and all the moonlit nights that might accompany those acts. It
is all very romantic. If sex is involved, all morally superior journalists
shy away from reporting it. By this reasoning, a good way for a corrupt
politician to cover up his corruption would be for him to become a sex
maniac while taking the government to the cleaners.
So after all these lectures about the privacy of sexual acts,
why have I not heard journalism's ethicists admonishing the Los Angeles
Times? In the last days of Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign for the
governorship of California, the Times began reporting on his frisky sex life
based on the stories of women whose recollections go back to the 1970s and
who have remained for the most part anonymous.
Can you imagine if my troopers had remained anonymous? Surely
they had good reason to remain anonymous. They could claim that they feared
retribution, and as a matter of fact at least three of them were punished by
state authorities. But who would take seriously a story of sexual excess
coming from sources that remained anonymous? Apparently, the editors of the
Los Angeles Times trust such sources, and they expect their readers to trust
According to the Times' mostly anonymous sources, Schwarzenegger
groped women usually on movie sets, much as Bill Clinton groped Kathleen
Willey in the White House. When Willey went public with the story, I began
calling her assailant the Groper, as in "Win One for the Groper." Needless
to say, the joke did not catch on. Many journalists remained in doubt that
the virginal president would commit such a rude act. Yet when the anonymous
sources accused Schwarzenegger of groping, he was instantaneously referred
to as the Groper, as in "Win One for the Groper."
There is an obvious double standard at work here, and so I can
imagine the Times getting a pass from the ethicists. Clinton is a Democrat,
and the press sympathizes with Democrats. Schwarzenegger ran as a
Republican, and the press disdains Republicans.
This suggests to me the one dreadful mistake Schwarzenegger made
in his campaign. He should have declared himself an independent. The press
is almost as sympathetic to independents as it is to Democrats. Do you
recall when a particularly coarse ex-wrestler ran for high office in
Minnesota as an independent? No sooner did he win the governorship than
Jesse Ventura was being boomed in the press as a presidential contender.
I shall be interested in the Times' response if the ethicists do
raise questions about the newspaper's reliance on anonymous sources. How
will its editors plead? My suggestion is that they rely on Clintonesque
reasoning. Simply claim that groping is not sex. Groping is politics.
Certainly the paper treated it as politics. And apparently under certain
circumstance, even rape is politics.
When the Los Angeles Times got its groping story, the editors
ran it on the front page. When they had a story involving rape charges
against Bill Clinton, they buried the story in the back of the paper. Of
course, the rape charge against Clinton was different from most of the
groping charges against Schwarzenegger. It had a source willing to be
identified. Her name is Juanita Broaddrick, and unlike Schwarzenegger,
Clinton has neither apologized nor admitted.
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