NY Times Under Fire for Cindy Story
The New York Times today has a very strange, lengthy front-page story on Cindy McCain — by Jodi Kantor and David Halbfinger — dredging up some unpleasant episodes in the distant past of her private life without adding any new information, sprinkling some innuendo about the McCains’ long-distance marriage, analyzing her personality and health mostly with pure speculation, and just generally dissecting her private and emotional sphere for no apparent reason beyond idle voyeurism.
Some of the facts discussed are, I suppose, arguably relevant (her connection to the Keating Five scandal and how Washington scorned her as a result of McCain’s ugly treatment of his first wife), but the vast bulk of the article, while quite invasive, seems indistinguishable from lowly, rank gossip.
The article doesn’t even arguably raise an issue of political bias, as the NYT has long been obsessed with the Clintons’ marriage and sex lives (one of the worst, though by no means only, examples being this 2006 sleazy, highly detailed front-page gossip item from Patrick Healy — entitled “For Clintons, Delicate Dance of Married and Public Lives” — “reporting” that “Mr. Clinton is rarely without company in public, yet the company he keeps rarely includes his wife” and that “Bill and Hillary Clinton have built largely separate lives” while chronicling the number of nights they’ve spent together).
But this Cindy McCain article does seem to suggest that there are no longer any standards governing when “political journalists” dig into the private and sex lives of political figures — and their family members — even when doing so lacks even a purported connection to some matter of public interest.
Who cares how many nights John and Cindy have spent together over the past couple of decades, or how affectionate they are with one another when sitting at home, or that — 15 years ago — she “was caught stealing drugs from her nonprofit organization to feed her addiction to painkillers,” or whether her 2004 separation from McCain was due (as she claimed) to a stroke, or whether their marriage is a union of convenience and business rather than true love, or whether she actually crossed into Rwanda from Zaire during a 1994 trip to help refugees, or how often his friends in DC interact with her socially? How is there a public interest in knowing any of that?
Way worse, in order to write the article, the NYT’s Kantor trolled Facebook and found adolescent classmates of Bridget McCain’s and — at least in one case — sent an email that said this: I’m a reporter at the New York Times, writing a profile of Cindy McCain, and we are trying to get a sense of what she is like as a mother. So I’m reaching out to fellow parents at her kids’ schools.
Is investigating Cindy McCain’s fitness as a mother actually a legitimate function for the political reporters at the NYT? Doesn’t that question answer itself?
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