Ever since then-President Clinton was practically burned at the stake by our highly-principled news media for his affair with Monica Lewinsky, I've been fascinated by the pull that this type of adultery story seems to exhibit. I totally understand the concern that a person in a position of power could abuse that position to demand sexual favors from staff members. If that had been the case with Clinton, then yes, my journalistic instincts tell me that would have been a story. But with a willing, adult-age partner, where is the story? A guy cheated on his wife? These things do happen. Dog bites man. Not a story.
I've been reminded of all this in reading the tons of ink spilled on the David Letterman adultery story. Unless I’ve missed something, it doesn’t seem that any of the women Letterman apparently slept with have accused him of demanding sex in return for job perks or promotions or continued employment. Nobody is saying he preyed on underage staffers. So why the hell does anyone care? Did the guy break any laws? If not, why does the media feel inclined to beat this story to death? I guess in this case the answer is the same as it usually is: this story is being over-covered because it’s an easy story to cover. (Our media is nothing if not lazy.) There’s ready-made video with Dave’s noteworthy on-air discussion of the events, in an effort to take control of the narrative from the guy trying to blackmail him. And as much as we love our celebrities in America, we love seeing them beaten down even more. A humiliated celebrity is far better news fodder than a famous person on top of the world.
That said, I find the Associated Press’ hand-wringing in the above-linked story quite interesting. What must Dave do to keep women viewers, the AP wonders? Speaking as a (sigh) middle-aged married woman, I have to say that nothing about this whole thing bothers me, aside from the media’s over-reaction to it. Letterman’s sex life concerns me precisely as much as Bill Clinton’s sex life concerned me back in the 1990s: not one goddamn bit. Why shouldn’t I keep watching Letterman’s show? Don’t I have more pressing things to worry about? How immature am I supposed to be, exactly?
The last thing I want to waste time worrying about is other people’s legal, consensual sexual activities. Period. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. But the media will never admit that most people simply don’t care about this stuff.
Cross-posted at Broadway Carl's Blog-O-Mania