Husbands: Hot or Not?

Good thing we braced ourselves.

“Husbands a Hot Topic in NY Senate Race,” reads the headline on yesterday’s Associated Press piece by Marc Humbert.

And really, who can blame Humbert for doing his part to make it so?

By focusing, as much of the press has, on the Naughty Husband Factor (NHF), Humbert gets to write a lede comparing a still-hypothetical Hillary Clinton v. Jeanine Pirro contest to a “country music” song, “the stuff of late nights, neon-lit jukeboxes and smoky roadhouses.”

While we all know that reporters are loathe to acknowledge their own role in determining whether a particular topic is “hot” or not, Humbert’s piece is sprinkled with subtle clues that he and his colleagues may just play a part.

For example: “When Pirro announced Aug. 8 that she would run for Senate,” Humbert reports, “she was immediately besieged with questions about her husband.” And, lest readers think it was voters or perhaps the Clinton campaign doing this “besieging,” Humbert later writes, “‘This campaign is about me,’ [Pirro] told The Associated Press that day.” And: “[Albert Pirro] has declined to talk to the media about what effect he may have on his wife’s campaign.”

But who needs Mr. Pirro to “talk … about what effect he may have on his wife’s campaign?” We already know, from the coverage of the 2004 presidential race, that a candidate’s spouse is either an “asset,” a “liability,” or a “secret weapon” — or all three, with any luck, by the time Election Day rolls around.


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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.