Say What, Shafer?*

I often enjoy (and often agree with) Jack Shafer’s stuff. But, what’s up with this?

Shafer wonders “why hasn’t the press commented” on a recent National Enquirer story involving John Edwards supposedly visiting a supposed love child. “Is it because it broke too late yesterday afternoon, and news organizations want to investigate it for themselves before writing about it? Or are they observing a double standard that says homo-hypocrisy is indefensible but that hetero-hypocrisy deserves an automatic bye?” Shafer writes.

More Shafer: “[I]f Edwards had an affair and lied about it, shouldn’t he suffer scrutiny akin to that of [Larry] Craig? At least three-dozen daily newspapers in the United States published the Craig news the day after the Roll Call scoop, according to Nexis, but this morning not a single U.S. daily mentioned the Enquirer piece.”

And then Shafer goes ahead and answers his own question:

A cop charged Craig with a misdemeanor, and he pleaded guilty. There’s no denying the police blotter is always news, and there’s no denying that Craig deserved the hypocrisy scrutiny. Edwards, as far as we know, is guilty of nothing beyond running away from tabloid reporters in a Beverly Hills hotel stairway in the wee a.m. after visiting a female friend in her room. Also, all of the Enquirer’s published ‘evidence’ of an Edwards affair comes from unnamed sources. And I should mention that an Edwards political operative, Andrew Young, claims that he is the father of Hunter’s child. (Young is married with children of his own.)”

But still Shafer argues: “[I]f the press craves consistency, it owes its readers some sort of assessment of Edwards. Is he, like Craig, a public hypocrite?” The press “owes readers” no “assessment of Edwards” based on an Enquirer story.

Shafer says the Enquirer story has Edwards “hiding in a hotel bathroom for fifteen minutes.” Had an undercover cop arrested Edwards in that bathroom and charged Edwards with doing something unlawful (but a heterosexual-seeming something) and many weeks later Edwards pleaded guilty and the Enquirer got that scoop and “according to Nexis not a single U.S. daily mentioned” all that, Shafer might have something.

*UPDATE:My original headline was: “Maybe Shafer Mostly Wanted A Reason To Write “Homo-Hypocrisy.” With a few seconds’ additional thought, I changed it to this shorter and less snarky one. Also because I’m not sure I entirely disagree with Shafer’s sense that “homo-hypocrisy” among politicians might receive more scrutiny (or, at least, ridicule) by the press than does “hetero-hypocrisy.” I just don’t find the Edwards situation, such as it stands today, a good test case.

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.