A convenient target

Gloria and Herman Cain Saturday

Herman Cain ended his campaign for president Saturday.  I attended the speech he delivered announcing his exit, and heard the crowd roar loudest when he denounced the news media.

The news media is a convenient object of scorn.  It’s easy to clobber reporters, whose jobs are to look for and tell interesting real-life stories.  Frequently, those stories are salacious — especially when the key players are celebrities.  The audience eats up the stories, while at the same time denouncing the whole business as smarmy.

It would have been much more uncomfortable for Cain to address the particular allegations of the small parade of women who reported untoward personal encounters with Cain, particularly in front of a large group of supporters.  And with Gloria Cain standing in the wings.  “So what if I didn’t tell my wife about my secret 13-year friendship with a single woman, which included generous financial assistance and 4:30am text messages?” Cain could have said.

Instead, the crowd roared at the lines bashing the media.  In interviews afterward, Cain supporters expressed anger at the news media for undoing their candidate.

A woman gave away these buttons at the Cain event

He bitterly attacked “professional scavengers and gossip mongers who have made life hell for innocent people.” An hour later, he went on a local radio talk show and called reporters “vultures and hooligans.”

The above line comes from a 1987  article about Julian Bond, following allegations the former Georgia legislator habitually used cocaine.  The allegations came from his estranged wife Alice.

Bond was and still is an outspoken liberal.  The same guy who broke the story about Herman Cain’s alleged mistress also broke the Alice Bond story.  I honestly don’t know Dale Russell’s political leanings.  But he’s an equal-opportunity pain-in-the-ass to powerful people prone to excess.  Ask Terrell Bolton.  Ask Earl Paulk.  Ask Glenn Richardson.

Donna Rice and Gary Hart share a moment, circa 1987

The rest of the news media are similarly motivated.  We’ll chase a good story, regardless of the political bent of the target.  Since the term became vogue, the “liberal media” has a rich history of clobbering liberals, from Gary Hart to Elliott Spitzer to Anthony Weiner.  Their salacious behavior demanded it.  Hart has probably experienced many flashbacks during the past month.

Thankfully, you don’t hear about the “liberal media” much anymore.  There were “don’t believe the liberal media!” signs and buttons distributed at the Cain event.  It seemed like a throwback to the 90s.

Cain supporters can argue that the string of allegations against Cain were nebulous and unproven.  They can argue that the news media, whose 24 hour presence magnifies the most meaningless stories, gave the allegations undue attention.  They can decry “spin,” though I think that’s merely a pejorative term for the free expression of ideas you don’t like.

The news media is an almost textbook example of a free market entity.  When critics demand reform of the news media and its priorities, they rarely offer an alternative framework.  “Would you rather have the government control the news media?” I’ll occasionally ask them.  “No, but…” the response will invariably begin.

The media is your savior when reporters find dirt on the guy you don’t like.  When your enemy is exposed as a scoundrel, you will happily “spin” the material to suit you.  You might even praise the news media for doing its job.

But when your guy is the target, the media becomes a convenient whipping boy.  It’s much easier than discussing the facts.

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About live apt fire

Doug Richards is a reporter at WXIA-TV. This is his personal blog. WXIA-TV has nothing whatsoever to do with this blog, under any circumstances, in any form. For anything written herein, Doug accepts sole credit and full blame. Follow him on Twitter: @richardsdoug. All rights reserved. Thanks for visiting.

10 thoughts on “A convenient target

  1. Mimi Mees

    Well said. I am so weary of the lazy media-bashing argument whenever people don’t like how a story is going. I should be used to it, but I was astounded when the media were again blamed in the aftermath of the students’ night of “unrest” at Penn State. Seriously? There were no other logical figures to blame for that debacle?

  2. Mr. Bear

    The Hollywood stars use the media to create fantasy “personal lives”, but then complain when the media is too persistent, too intrusive, too factual. You can’t have it both ways. Why should the politicians be any different?

  3. boib

    Here’s an alternative for you – non-profit news organizations. It’s not liberal or conservative leanings that are the problem, it’s the appeal for the average and below viewers that make (tv news anyway) garbage. Why else does Channel 2 Action News (with the highest ratings) cover a live auto accident or ‘live apartment fire’ from their Action 2 Copter on each 6pm newscast?

    If news orgs weren’t driven by a profit motive they might broadcast actual news. Imagine if you tuned in one day and Monica said: “We’ve only 10 minutes worth of news today so for the remainder of the program, will have a discussion about the new HOT toll lanes”. And not a ‘shout match’ or ‘overtalk each other’ discussion, mind you 😉

    Ah, Utopia. Never happen 🙂 That’s why I stopped watching. They don’t market to me, so I don’t watch. Not that I’m an Einstein, but sheesh! Treat me with a little respect.

    PS – My comments aren’t really about Cain, but your comment about an alternative to the current news media. Most people recognize why Cain is bashing the media – it’s part of the playbook for them what got caught 🙂

  4. Pingback: The Herman Cain Party « Chamblee54

  5. Sallie J

    I think it’s great that you title the liberal media’s campaign to pick on Republican candidates’ personal life as “A convenient target.”

    1. live apt fire Post author

      Hey, BD! The Miami Herald did the first stories questioning Hart’s marital fidelity, after one of Donna Rice’s girlfriends tipped the paper that she was having an affair with Hart. But you are correct that the Enquirer was the first to publish the photo of Rice sitting in Hart’s lap.

  6. arky

    Another reason they’re convenient targets: reporters generally can’t retaliate when they get slammed by politicians, whether unfairly or not (at least not directly). When Donald Trump recently crapped all over Chuck Todd, there wasn’t much Chuck could do but grin awkwardly and change the subject. The more personal a politician makes it against a reporter, the more difficult it is for the reporter to defend himself. Many of the most powerful public figures out there are bullies at heart, and there’s nothing quite as satisfying to them as beating up a target that can’t fight back.


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