It’s Not The Politician’s Fault. It’s The Media’s Fault.

On a recent Real Time With Bill Maher, guest Janeane Garofalo said something exasperating that I hear clients (and other pundits) say a lot. While discussing the Anthony Weiner saga, she said that it was the media’s fault that the Weiner story was such a big deal, not Mr. Weiner’s.

I’m going to call bull on that one.

That implies that the media’s excesses aren’t predictable. But they are, and public figures have ample evidence that their personal scandals will receive relentless coverage. They proceed with their reckless acts in spite of that foreknowledge, and retain the power to avoid being in the media spotlight simply by not committing them in the first place.

Are the media really to blame for the John Edwards scandal? Credit: Wikimedia Commons

After all:

  • Did Rev. Jesse Jackson (D-IL) really not know that fathering a love child would get media attention?
  • Did Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) really not know that sending messages to under-aged male pages would be a news story?
  • Did anti-gay rights Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) really not know that trying to recruit a male sex partner in an airport bathroom would get coverage?
  • Did “family values” Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) really think that cheating on his wife by visiting a prostitute wouldn’t get him in the news?
  • Did the “Sheriff of Wall Street,” Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-NY) really think hiring hookers wouldn’t be covered in the world’s largest media market?
  • Did Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) really think that having an affair on his cancer-stricken wife and fathering a child out of wedlock during his presidential bid would not become a major tabloid headline?
  • Did Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA) really think that having a child with his housekeeper would stay out of the news forever?
  • Did Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC) really think he could disappear with his Argentinean lover without Chris Matthews and Anderson Cooper wondering where he went?

Yes, the media are excessive. Yes, they give these stories way too much life. But we all know well by now what they do and how they do it. And with that knowledge, politicians have the information they need to have to avoid being the subject of their next breathless, week-long, national sex scandal.

What do you think? 

Related: Why You Should Be Paranoid In Public

Related: May 2011 – The Five Worst Video Media Disasters