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By What Definition is Gavin Newsom's Sex Life 'Breaking News'?

Posted: 02/01/07 04:46 PM ET

I just finished watching San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom apologize for having a sexual relationship with the wife of his former campaign manager, Alex Tourk.

"I'm deeply sorry," he said during a brief City Hall news conference.

The TV described this as "Breaking News." By what definition? I mean, really, why is this anybody's business -- except for Mr. Newsom, Mr. Tourk, Mr. Tourk's wife (the evocatively named Ruby Rippey-Tourk), and Mr. Newsom's ex-wife.

Why is this a public matter?

Despite my less-than-stellar opinion of much of the media, I am still shocked that with Iraq continuing to implode (with January setting a deadly record for Iraqi civilian deaths, and another 61 killed today), and all the other problems facing the world, the media are willing to use up their precious air-time oxygen with pointless crap like this.

Our political and media culture clearly regards sex and scandal the same way Vince Lombardi felt about winning: it isn't everything -- it's the only thing.

This media fixation on personal peccadilloes is a perfect example of what G.K. Chesterton warned about: "If there is one thing worse than the modern weakening of major morals, it is the modern strengthening of minor morals."

I've been writing about the need for a thick line to be drawn between public matters and private lives for years (see here, here, and here). But that hasn't stopped the never-ending cycle of public voyeurism, titillation, admission, contrition, and inevitable prime-time absolution. There was Wolf Blitzer, following up Newsom's news conference by promising: "We're going to have a lot more on this story." I bet they will. And I can already hear any number of TV news personalities clearing their throats and getting ready to usher Newsom into their broadcast confessional.

Spare me. Please.

Unless Newsom misused public funds in the course of his affair or broke some law, this isn't a matter for CNN, it's a matter for Newsom, his friends, and his therapist (if he has one).

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Unless a politician has broken the law, there is only one legitimate answer to the illegitimate probing of private lives: "It's none of your business." (If the pol in question is really popular, "Go to Hell!" is an acceptable substitute.)

I am utterly uninterested in the marital fidelity of our politicians. "Does not stray" might be a wonderful attribute in a husband -- or a dog -- but history has clearly shown that it says nothing about what kind of leader a person will be.

Our politicians need to keep their private lives private, and the media need to keep their focus on what does -- and what surely does not -- constitute news. "Breaking" or otherwise.

 
 
 

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