Sean Hannity, complaining that the media haven't run with the National Enquirer's allegation that John Edwards fools around on his wife, cited Senator Larry Craig as an example of liberal media bias. Hannity pointed out the Craig's "foot-tapping incident" was all over the media despite the fact that...
...there was no evidence that that was true.
To put this in context: Craig, a gay-bashing conservative Republican, was apprehended by a police officer in a public men's room using what appeared, to the officer, to be a standard means of sexual approach. Arrested for and charged with lewd conduct, Craig plead guilty to reduced charge of disorderly conduct. The story didn't break in the media until after Craig plead guilty.
In Sean Hannity's world, pleading guilty constitutes "no evidence."
This in contrast with John Edwards, who is a political has-been (or even never-was) acting really guilty in a hotel lobby. His misbehavior has been thinly documented by The National Enquirer, which is not, in most circumstances, considered a journalistically admirable source. But even assuming the Enquirer's allegations are true -- and I'd bet they are -- Edwards has been charged with no crime, has not made a career out of condemning the marital infidelities of others, has not discussed the matter in public, and is married to a very popular woman who is dying of cancer. One might expect and even applaud journalistic restraint in these circumstances.
One might even be surprised to find that the same conservatives who advocate government censorship of the media are outraged that the airwaves are not filled with details of Edwards' tawdry sexual exploits.
When the news of Edwards' adventure broke, I wrote a quick posting about it, but decided not to publish it because it was pointless. Reading my own words, I found no lesson to be learned, no larger point to be made, and no irony to savor. It was just sad, journalists hanging around a hotel lobby to catch a middle aged man stepping out on his wife. I killed the post.
On the other hand, I wrote several times about Larry Craig. Craig is a family values conservative, among other things an anti-gay crusader, who was arrested trying to pick-up strangers in an airport men's room. The irony of that seems not particularly difficult to recognize, and I've long ridiculed the hypocrisy of moralizing righties who condemn everyone else's sins while denying their own. That hypocrisy is, I think, a good argument against political meddling in private matters. When Rush Limbaugh gets arrested illegal drug use and Newt Gingrich takes a break from condemning anti-family Democrats to celebrate his third marriage, I think that's worthy of note, and scorn, and that their very human behavior makes a strong point about keeping government out of our personal lives. I do not believe that the story of John Edwards makes any larger point; perhaps one of my outraged conservative commentors would take a moment before condemning my hypocrisy to explain just what the larger lesson of John Edwards' behavior might be. What policy does this impact?
It's more newsworthy when someone who crusades against an activity is found to participate in a particularly loathsome version of that same activity. The right certainly recognizes this when it comes to Al Gore's carbon footprint or John Edwards' anti-poverty crusading while paying $400 for a haircut -- two stories which have, by the way, been extensively covered in the supposedly liberal media.
Ultimately, what the Sean Hannities of the world demand is not that the media be fair or responsible. It is, instead, that the media be as angry and vindictive as they, themselves, are. I think it's terrific that the media have resisted the temptation. I think Hannity ought to at least get his facts straight.
I also think John Edwards should go home and apologize to his wife, and the National Enquirer should crawl back under the slimy rock where it belongs, rather than serving as poster child for what the right wing thinks journalism ought to be.