March 11, 2008

Today's Front Pages Analysis

A dirtied Mr. Clean governor tops the news in many dailies

All the world loves a scandal. Eliot Spitzer, the governor of New York, is the focus of one that tops the news in many dailies. He is not the first American governor to be caught up in a scandal, not the first to be involved in a sex scandal, not even the first to make a public statement with his aggrieved wife at his side. However, he may be the first to come to office as Mr. Clean with a reputation as a crusading attorney general who “prosecuted prostitution rings with enthusiasm,” as one newspaper put it. Now he is accused of being “Client 9” of what may be the world’s highest priced prostitution ring.

Let’s start with The New York Times, which broke the story yesterday on its Web site and today leads with a four-column head “Spitzer, linked to a sex ring as a client, gives an apology,” has two Page One sidebars and links to two related inside stories. The Washington Post also leads with “Spitzer linked to prostitution ring by wiretap.”

In New York, The Journal News of Westchester County asked the follow-up question: “Democrats wonder: Should he stay?” The New York tabloids had nicknamed Spitzer “Eliot Ness,” and the Niagara Gazette played off that nickname with: “Eliot Mess.” The tabs had a field day today. “Eliot & The Call Girl,” Newsday said. “Pay for Luv Gov,” said the Daily News. And the New York Post tops it with: “Ho No!”

Many other dailies also thought the story was worthy of the front page. The Birmingham (Ala.) News squares off at the top of the page “N.Y. governor linked to prostitute,” the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson reports “N.Y.’s ‘Mr. Clean’ governor is linked to call-girl service,” while the Los Angeles Times leads with “Governor of N.Y. linked to call girl” next to a three-column photo of the governor and his wife as he made his public statement. The Denver Post squares off “Sex scandal socks Spitzer” with the photo, while the competing Rocky Mountain News in the same city fills Page One with the same photo and the head “Rendezvous with ruin.” That picture is on Page One of the Hartford Courant in Connecticut with the head “What was he thinking?” In Lakeland, Fla., The Ledger leads with “New York’s governor tied to pricey prostitution ring,” while The Lewiston Tribune in Idaho leads with “NY governor, linked to prostitution, faces call to step down” and The Kentucky Enquirer in Fort Mitchell reports “N.Y. gov caught in scandal” and The Record in Hackensack, N.J., says it all with the head “‘Mr. Clean’ soiled.”

More than 300 years ago, the French playwright Moliere wrote “To create a public scandal is what's wicked; to sin in private is not a sin.” But when the private sin doesn’t remain private?

Gene Mater is a Freedom Forum media consultant.

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