Should politician’s families always be off limits? At what point does the media go over the line in the treatment of family members and private family issues?
Two cases crossed my desk this morning. One of them inescapable if you have a TV or read a paper, the other more obscure and my take on each is quite different.
The first is that of Governor Mark Sanford of South Carolina. Now I am as guilty as the rest of using his misfortune for amusement. I’ve made several irreverent tweets about his recently revealed affair with an Argentinian woman. But I do think the media has crossed the line in one way. Why are we reading e-mails between him and his mistress? What possible decent productive purpose does it serve for this private correspondence to be aired in public? It is for pure titillation, nothing more. I don’t see how the South Carolina newspaper, The State, legally obtained these e-mails and I would love to hear their editorial defense for their publication. They should be ashamed of themselves. And yes, when I first heard about them, I tweeted “Sanford: It gets worse. There are e-mails.” But after I read them and gave the matter further thought, I decided this was nothing to tweet about. It’s over the line.
Then there is the flip-side, a politician who consistently parades her family in public to make political points and then gets angry when this backfires on her. You’ve probably guessed I am talking about Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
The latest incident involves a mock photo in which a picture of her and new baby Trig was photoshopped to replace Trig’s face with that of a local conservative talk show host. You can find the photo and corresponding article here. One particular passage of Palin’s spokesperson’s response really boiled my blood:
Recently we learned of a malicious desecration of a photo of the Governor and baby Trig that has become an iconic representation of a mother’s love for a special needs child.
An “iconic representation of a mother’s love for a special needs child”? Excuse me? What should be iconic about a mother’s love for her special needs child? Is there something heroic or outstanding that she loves her mentally retarded baby? Would it be acceptable if she did NOT love her mentally retarded baby? What kind of total foolishness is this? So far, her youngest daughter Piper is the only one to escape exploitation by this attention craving pol. She paraded her pregnant daughter Bristol all over the place to score points with the pro-life contingent. She equated her daughter Willow with statutory rape in an unnecessarily prolonged battle with David Letterman to enhance her “women’s rights” street cred. And now poor Trig is thrown to the wolves so Sarah can get more attention.
There are limits to how the media should cover politicians and their families. In the case of Sanford, the media crossed that limit. In the case of Palin, she’s the one who crossed it. Again.