Media moral standards

Why is the word "disgraced" used for Eliot Spitzer but so few other leading politicians?

Published July 12, 2010 9:13PM (EDT)

(updated below)

When CNN recently announced that it had hired Eliot Spitzer to host a prime-time news show, I noticed that the word "disgraced" was applied to him so reflexively that one had the impression it was a formal part of his title.  CNN plans "an as-yet-untitled discussion show with Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced former New York governor," announced The New York Times The first sentence of a separate NYT article on the hiring read:  "Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced former governor of New York . . . . "  Weeks earlier, the NYT had previewed:  "As CNN moves to replace Campbell Brown in its struggling prime-time lineup, the most intriguing name on the channel’s list is Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced former governor of New York."  AP referred recently to a new documentary "about Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced former governor of New York."  On his CNN program, Howard Kurtz exclaimed:  "CNN has signed Eliot Spitzer -- that's right, the disgraced former governor of New York."

So common is this appellation that a NEXIS media search reveals that the word "disgraced" appears extremely close to the phrase "Eliot Spitzer" (within two words) a total of 394 times:

By blindingly stark contrast, ever since he got caught hiring prostitutes to wrap him in diapers while campaigning on the basis of Family Values, the word "disgraced" appeared within two words of the name "David Vitter" a grand total of 4 times -- all from small blogs:

I thought about this issue because Newt Gingrich announced today that he was seriously considering running for President, and I virtually never see the word "disgraced" attached to his name; in fact, in the 3 years since he confessed to James Dobson that he was cheating on his second wife with his then-mistress-and-congressional-aide/now-third-wife, at the same time as he was leading the Clinton impeachment hearings, Gingrich was so described a grand total of 5 times, none from major news outlets:

Alberto Gonzales, who was forced to resign as Attorney General in the wake of a major Department of Justice scandal, and who was revealed as one of the earliest authors of pro-torture memos, has had that term applied to him a grand total of 17 times.

Could someone please explain how this works?  What accounts for this extreme discrepancy and for the The Liberal Media's reflexive attaching of this word to Spitzer but not to any of the above figures?  What standards are being applied here exactly?


UPDATE:  The "diaper" aspect of the Vitter prostitution scandal is very widely repeated though, apparently, very poorly sourced, hence the correction above. 

By Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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