The Jackson scandal

By Anthony York, Joan Walsh and Jimi Izrael

Published January 22, 2001 8:00PM (EST)

Read the stories:

"The Jackson scandal" by Anthony York

"Aphrodisiac of power" by Joan Walsh

"Jesse Jackson? That's just my baby daddy" by Jimi Izrael

Who the hell cares? Here we are on the verge of inaugurating a president who was rejected by most of the people who went to the polls, and the best the media can do is to rejoice over what it hopes is Jesse Jackson's downfall. Have matters deteriorated to such a sorry state?

It would be one thing if Jesse Jackson had had a child out of wedlock and the mother was receiving public assistance. But that is not the case. The mother is receiving child support. There are no accusations that whatever relationship he had with the mother was anything other than consensual. What's more, the mother of the child was, presumably, of legal consenting age. The day has long passed when there was any enormous shame attached to an extramarital affair or a child born out of wedlock. It's a private matter. Jackson never went around trashing other people for their so-called lack of morality, like Newt Gingrich and Co. did before their deeds were exposed. He deserves to be left alone. I guarantee that Jackson will survive and move beyond this.

-- Timothy Foster

It's ironic and disingenuous for Jesse Jackson to request that others to do what he has refused to do throughout his career: act and speak with sensitivity, avoid inciting opponents with half-truths and innuendoes and plea for "understanding and privacy."

Perhaps it would improve his intellectual integrity and general effectiveness in the future if he were to be treated as he has treated others. Fortunately, even those who disagree with him will most likely deal with his current situation with sensitivity and a respect for privacy and understanding. The essential question is whether he will henceforth deal with other situations with the same respect, rather than using his public position to incite persons to extreme and thoughtless positions.

-- R. Vohs

I don't think the revelation that Jesse Jackson fathered an illegitimate child will hurt him in the long run. He's behaving in a responsible manner in regard to the child and its mother, and will drop out of sight for a while. If he were a contender for the presidency, it would be different, but his role has mainly been as an instigator and catalyst for a wide variety of social concerns. He has never been a hypocritical moralist of the Dan Burton or Henry Hyde ilk.

All it says to me is that we are fundamentally animals, with animal cravings and drives. I much prefer a man like Jesse Jackson than the murderous ilk that passes for our social elite.

-- John Hamilton

Child out of wedlock? Big deal. This is a right-wing stab at an issue that involves more Americans than you'd think. Personally, I don't give a damn. Jackson is still a human rights hero, and he always will be. The fact that he had a child outside of the U.S. government tax benefit means nothing to me, and should mean nothing to you as well -- unless your last name is Ashcroft. Jackson has done more in the area of civil rights and the advancement of colored people than any Ashcroft could wish for. Stop chastising him for such a petty offense.

-- Matt Kaune

Excuse me if I sound a bit skeptical, but the timing of this old news about Jesse Jackson's womanizing is highly suspicious. After all, Jackson was one of the leading figures speaking out against the illegitimate installation of George W. Bush as president. He was also involved in the investigations and vote count efforts in the state now known as "Fraudida." Could it be, just could it be, that the revelations about Jackson's peccadilloes were a Republican leak to deflect attention from the mass protests against Bush's coronation on Saturday and the likely revelation that Al Gore actually got more votes in Florida than Bush?

-- Susan Nunes

I have lost all respect for (Reverend? Ha!) Jesse Jackson. This is not only because he humiliated his family so blatantly but because he allowed himself to be "taken" and humiliated by a black groupie -- especially one who had written a book about him. How weak and desperate could he be? This is a man who used to date Roberta Flack and probably lots of other high-class women who could at least support themselves.

If the dear reverend is so interested in helping the cause of black people, why doesn't he impregnate some poor women in lower-income neighborhoods (he could start in his own hometown of Chicago or even Washington) and cough up thousands of dollars for those needy gals. At least the poorer woman would have some appreciation for the money. Paying $40,000 to move? You could renovate a small slum building for that! Jackson is just a bumbling, pussy-whipped hypocrite.

-- Brenda Fabian

Joan Walsh needs to get off her moral high horse. What makes her an expert on the sexuality standards that public figures should hold themselves up to? People are human. They have sex. Why can't we deal with that in a nonjudgmental way? As far as I am concerned, this story affects Jesse Jackson and his family. Period. The rest of us should butt out!

Why don't members of the media ever get this kind of scrutiny? Walsh is the editor of a major news Web site that influences thousands of readers. Isn't she a public figure? I want a list of everyone she's slept with, a full disclosure of any extramarital affairs she may have had.

You're damned right that the timing of this story is suspicious! The kid's nearly 2 years old, and the story breaks two days before the inaugural protests are set to begin. This is a Republican smear tactic meant to throw the protest movement off stride.

I was already planning to go to Washington Saturday to give George W. Bush as much hell as I can muster. This story will just make me yell a little louder.

-- John McCoy

Who is paying Jesse Jackson's lover and with what funds? That is the story I want to read.

-- M.G. Wilson

I'm a conservative Republican who considers many of the Rev. Jackson's political causes, and the manner of his political agitation, to be deeply injurious to our country. I would have much preferred to see him brought to book for some of his more misguided interventions in the United States or in Africa, where his efforts at personal diplomacy have failed horrifically.

Many who think like me (with the few exceptions you have noted, like Ann Coulter) consider the Rev. Jackson's transgressions more a cause for personal prayer and reflection than public gloating. The self-destructive attitudes that Joan Walsh thinks might grow out of class inferiority are, according to my understanding, more deeply rooted in the human condition. Jackson's disgrace is a cause of deep sadness for me. Despite the real harm he has caused, and what I suspect to be his own denial of the dishonesty of some of his political stands, as a Christian I believe that his ultimate destiny, his happiness, as well as that of his family, is precious to God, and that he is my brother in faith. My pity and prayers go to Jackson and his family, as well as my thanks for the good he has tried to do and, God grant, will do again.

-- David Curp

What is so classy about owning up to your responsibility after being exposed by a tabloid? What is so classy about being a man of the cloth and fathering a child with a woman who is not your wife? What is so classy about diverting $40,000 of your not-for-profit organization's money to relocate your paramour? Is Jackson classier than Jimmy Swaggart or Jim Bakker because he didn't bawl his eyes out on national TV?

What is suspicious is not so much that the Drudge Report or the Enquirer reported on the reverend's illegitimate child during the Ashcroft hearings, but rather that this was somewhat of an open secret in Washington.

-- Richard de Villiers

You people are amazing. One of the most pugnacious, sanctimonious and self-righteous public figures of the last half of the 20th century is exposed -- only weeks after mounting hopelessly quixotic protests demanding "the truth" about the Florida count, leveling accusations right and left against the leaders of the new administration -- as just another user who was willing to lie to his family and steal from his own organization and, indirectly, from the people he so voraciously claims to champion, and Salon floats a host of posts defending the man. You make me want to puke. Bad timing? Perhaps, but it's no worse than the "incidental" revelation of President-elect Bush's DUI embarrassment (which, let's remember, happened years ago, well before Bush had entered any greater semblance of public life than being the son of a famous father).

Joan Walsh seems to be so proud of the Rev. Jackson for standing to be counted and taking responsibility for his actions. Get off it, Joan! Was it responsible to seduce a younger member of his organization, using his obvious power and prestige, in an action that by any corporation's standard would be a clear case of sexual harassment? Was it responsible to trot his pregnant girlfriend into the White House to rub elbows with another famous seducer?

-- Ed Tarkington

By Letters to the Editor

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