Throwing Spitz Balls at The Post

Congratulations to the New York Post. They’ve managed to pull three four days worth of cover stories out of a rumor founded on unnamed sources that former Gov. Eliot Spitzer is considering a return to politics — right in time for the slow news week leading up to Labor Day weekend.

Quick recap: Spitzer resigned as governor of New York in March 2008 following revelations that he’d been a client of a prostitution ring under investigation by the federal government and, specifically, a client of prostitute Ashley Alexandra Dupre, who revealed in her affadavit to the feds that Spitzer keeps his socks on during sex.

The Post’s exclusive coverage started on Tuesday with the headline “Say It Ain’t Ho! Spitzer Eyes New Run; 2nd Coming” and accompanying story based on backroom chatter that Spitzer is considering a run for state comptroller or Kirsten Gillibrand’s Senate seat. The story is attributed to “sources,” “a source close to him,” “two sources” and “an ally.” It would have been nice to get someone on the record, but fair enough. Spitzer’s a big name and his return to the political limelight is a major story.

As one might expect, the Post did a folo on the Spitzer comeback story the next day — but this time as a reaction piece from the Ashley Alexandra Dupre camp with the screaming headline, “Only in America.” That was a quote from Dupre’s mother, Carolyn Capalbo, who just happened to be at the beach in a teeny bikini when the newspaper came calling. She is pictured thusly in a mini-slideshow which also includes a shot of her daughter in her most serious looking swimsuit. Which is all well and good, the Capalbo/Dupre girls look good in beachwear and this is the Post, after all, not the World Policy Journal.

But here’s where we get our bikini in a bunch. If you’re going to run something so weak, you’d better back it up the next day. After all, you’ve got a whole extra day to bolster your initial story, go back to your sources, find out if any campaign papers have been filed, any meetings with political kingmakers held, or PR firms hired. Instead we got a swimsuit issue featuring more unnamed sources and only three attributed quotes, one of which doesn’t make a lot of sense (Only in America? If Spitzer’s scandal took place in just about any other country, perhaps France or Italy, he would never have had to step down in the first place). But at least Capalbo goes on the record. The Post quotes an anonymous Dupre ally here:

“The woman always ends up the filthy, marked whore and he ends up coming back the savior of politics,” said a disgusted pal of Dupre. “I feel bad for her. She’s the one who paid the price for it.”

Interesting choice of words since Dupre is, technically, a whore. She had sex with men for money. This will be a key definition we’ll revisit later. But let’s get back to the real news, which the Post isn’t nearly as interested in: Spitzer is considering a comeback?

One “prominent pol” says it’s possible and “several sources” say Spitzer has been talking with friends about running for office next year. These mysterious sources also say Spitzer would love his old job back as state attorney general, but it’s considered out of reach. Which explains why you need bikini photos of ex-hookers and their hot moms to spice up the story. Because at the end, after a jokey quote from Gov. David Paterson, who says it’s fine with him if Spitzer runs, as long as he doesn’t try to reclaim the governor’s mansion, Spitzer, himself, shoots the rumors down once and for all.

“The only thing I’m running for is my cab,” Spitzer told a Post photographer who caught him on his way to work in the morning.

Oh. Okay. So story’s over. “Spitzer Re-Run Canceled.” Or maybe, “Spitz Likes to Keep It Private; Ex-Guv Shuns Return to Public Life.” Nope. The Thursday cover featured a response from Ms. Dupre to … we’re not sure now, nothing? Actually, the Post trumpets, it’s in reaction their “exclusive about Spitzer contemplating a return to office.” But really it’s in reaction to the reaction of women who sit in judgment of Dupre in reaction to the Post’s manufactured reaction story in response to pretty thin rumors. Got that?

In Thursday’s installment, the Post quotes a Dupre blog post in which she wishes Spitzer well in getting on with his life, bemoans her own fate, and basically calls all women whores. The headline reads: “Ashley’s Message to New York City Women: Get Real! You’re Just Like Me.”

“Let me say this — most girls, to varying degrees, of course, want to be pampered and have nice shoes, designer handbags and gorgeous clothes,” Dupre wrote. “I know many women who target guys with money and use them to get these things. They toy with them, flirt, go on dates, have sex and then drop hints about that new dress … or being short on rent money — and the guys deliver it.”

Here’s where that definition comes in handy. “Most girls” … “target guys with money” … “have sex.” Therefore, most girls = whores. Got it.

To be sure, the original Spitzer rumor story wasn’t nothing. But with no real sourcing to say those rumors were imminently true, the Post did the best they could with it and stretched the story two more days in a slow news week. Not ideal yet understandable. But not front-page-for-three-days-straight understandable. Which only leaves us to wonder. How will they milk it on Friday?

*UPDATE* Here’s how. Yet another reaction to a reaction: Feisty NY Gals Kick Some Ash; Resent Spitzer Escort Tagging ‘Em Gold Diggers

At least it’s not front page this time, just a double truck spread with only one gratuitous bikini shot relegated to pages 6 and 7.

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Alexandra Fenwick is an assistant editor at CJR.