19 January 2012

ABC Divorces Ethics from Journalism with Eye of Newt Interview

Speaker Newt Gingrich with his then 2nd wife Marianne Gingrich
During his run for the Republican Presidential nomination, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA 6th) has tried to make  a virtue of his messy personal life by noting that he has done things which he is now proud of but that he is a repentant sinner.  That being said, the GOP establishment has worried that at some point the Gingrich campaign would implode (again) due to Newt’s undisciplined nature.

During much of 2011, Gingrich ran a shoe-string campaign which pinned most of its fate shining during the baker’s dozen of debates and being perceived by primary voters as a  charismatic alternative to former Governor Mitt Romney (R-MA).  After surviving the snows of the Iowa Caucus and the New Hampshire primary, Gingrich was poised to do well on home ground in the South Carolina Primary.

Gingrich had a stand out performance during the Fox News/WSJ debate, where his rebuttal to a racially centered question from Juan Williams earned a standing ovation from the debate audience. Recent polls show Gingrich surging into second place, threatening Romney’s large lead.

On the cusp of the Saturday South Carolina primary, just after the final candidate debate, ABC News is poised to air a two hour interview with Gingrich’s second wife Marianne Gingrich.  This story raises some interesting journalistic questions.  The most poignant question is timing.

Is a news organization manipulating the election by strategically leaking damaging “news” (albeit decades old) on the eve on an election?   It would not be the first time in recent history that such a dirty trick has been employed in Presidential politics.   On the eve of the 2000 Presidential Election, when then Gov. George W. Bush (R-TX) had a five percent lead over Vice President Al Gore, a Democrat operative leaked a story about a Bush DWI charge from 1976 that caused the closest election in American history.

Where ABC News’ Gingrich hit piece differs is Newt’s messy life is well known.  As early as 1995, Marianne Gingrich threatened that she could end then husband Newt’s career with one interview.  If nothing new is revealed in Brian Ross’ sit down interview, then why air it now?

A second notorious example of newsies becoming part of the story in Presidential politics is Rather-Gate. In September 2004, CBS News Anchor (and Managing Editor) Dan Rather pushed an investigative story which he thought impeached  President George W. Bush claims about National Guard Service during the latter days of the Vietnam War in the early 1970s.   Rather’s supposed coup was an October Surprise  would make Bush look like a liar, a chicken hawk, a hypocrite and stood in stark contrast to the thrice Purple Hearted Veteran Senator John Kerry (D-MA), who incidentially served in Vietnam (sic).   Of course the pajamajadeen proved that Killian documents that were leaked by a Democrat political hack were forgeries yet Rather ran with them anyhow.

The Marianne Gingrich interview differs from Rather-Gate because there is no dispute that Newt Gingrich has been thrice married and has a messy prior personal life.  But championing the narrative from an estranged divorcee who never wanted her former husband to run for President, seems suspect for blockbuster news on the eve of an election.  Instead of vetting on his SuperPACs “Bigfoot” Bain Capital smear ads, or questioning how a conservative could demonize capitalism, tongues inside and outside of the Lamestream Media will be waging about salacious details from an embittered ex-wife. Quo vadis ABC?

On the one hand, there has been an occasion when the media sank a Presidential candidate on his peccadillos.  However  former Senator Gary Hart (D-CO) begged the media to follow him around during his 1988 Presidential run and they did report on his Monkey Business.

On the other hand, the Lamestream Media’s sins of omission on former Senator John Edwards (R-NC) must not be forgotten.  During the 2007, Edwards sought the Democrat nomination at the behest of his wife, who was dying of breast cancer.  During Edwards campaign, he had an affair with his videographer (who traveled with him on the campaign plane) but nary a word was spoken by the press corps.  The story of Rielle Hunter had to be broken by the National Enquirer and was poo-pooed as not being legitimate journalism.  This was not only a salacious story, showing Edwards as a sleezebag who cheated on his dying wife and then cowardly arranging for a staffer to pose for his bastard responsibilities.  Edwards may have also violated Campaign Finance laws by funneling over $100,000 to his mistress not only for her campaign work but to bankroll her pregnancy expenses.  But this was not a story in the Lamestream Media until Edwards was out of politics and putting off federal prosecutions with his heart condition.

Running for President as an incumbent offers tremendous advantages.  Such a candidate has the trappings of office to bolster his image.  A President running for re-election can stage photo ops allegedly about economic issues but really are a thin veneer for a taxpayer funded campaign appearance.  As President, it is easy to fund-raise as donors want to curry favor with a chosen one.  In addition, the Lamestream Media wants to retain access and curry favor with an incumbent President by doing his dirty work in the press, by accepting leaks from anonymous sources or running stories at strategic times.

Even though some late deciding Palmetto State voters might be influenced by stories of Newt’s cheating heart from long ago, Gingrich may have inoculated himself by posing as an open book about prior foibles.  What is more concerning is how the Lamestream Media is blatantly manipulating the news by strategically releasing salacious stories which may have been held until the right time, as voters are trying to decide about candidates and the issues.  In the future, may ABC not divorce its ethical duties of fair and unbiased reporting.  Otherwise just go on the public payroll as White House stenographers.

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