No, it's not scandalous that Cory Booker said a nice thing to a stripper

Stop making me defend Cory Booker

Published September 26, 2013 5:29PM (EDT)

Newark Mayor Cory Booker      (AP/Mel Evans)
Newark Mayor Cory Booker (AP/Mel Evans)

I feel like the most annoying people in the universe are conspiring to make me sympathetic to Cory Booker. Today, it's BuzzFeed's Benny Johnson and the New York Times.

Yesterday, Johnson, an illiterate creep BuzzFeed poached from "The Blaze" to produce dumb lists intended to be shared by horrible people on Facebook, had a scoop: New Jersey Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate Cory Booker exchanged private flirtatious messages with an exotic dancer. That is, he DM'd a stripper he follows on Twitter. (A pretty funny stripper with a good Twitter account.)

The post was accompanied by a lot of photos of the breasts of the woman in question, Lynsie Lee. The DMs teased in the headline didn't show up until near the end. Readers who made it that far saw this message from Booker to Lee: "And the East Coast loves you and by the East Coast, I mean me." When it comes to things said by men to strippers, that seems pretty tame. The screenshot of the DM was followed by five more pictures of Lee and one gif of Booker petting a dog. Also Johnson added some text that says "LIKE A BOSS" to the screenshot of the DM and posted it again, because "like a boss" is a meme and if you just add a randomly selected meme to a picture it becomes "viral."

Some BuzzFeed articles are written by smart people who use complete sentences. Some of the disposable lists are witty and appear to have taken some effort to put together. And so, so much BuzzFeed content is like this: Lazy trash created with obvious contempt for the audience. From the faux-cutesy storybook voice to the one Ryan Gosling gif apparently thrown in just to meet some sort of quota, everything about the way this story was packaged is an insult to humans who can read. It also all serves to obscure the actual story, which is trivial and un-scandalous but still theoretically interesting and funny.

The point of the big-pictures-and-short-sentences crap was supposed to be that it strips away the unessential excess verbiage and throat-clearing that traditional media organizations put around the actual "news" in their stories, which is often information that could be expressed in one paragraph with an arresting image. Here we see how New Media pads a non-story, with a thousand screenshots and time-wasting words that, while delivered in the style of jokes, are not actually jokes.

Then the New York Times then stepped in, to show how Old Media handles the same bit of almost-news. Michael Barbaro -- actually among best political reporters at the Times, annoyingly enough -- picked up Johnson's story and turned it into a masterclass in bad Timesian non-scandal coverage. Booker "has a high schooler's affinity for Twitter," the story begins (fun fact: "the typical Twitter user is an 18-29 year-old educated minority"), but that affinity comes with "perils." "Perils" like corresponding with "a 26-year-old stripper from Oregon," "whose photograph on Twitter features her splayed topless across a yellow couch."

"Her correspondence with Mr. Booker, unearthed by BuzzFeed, suggests that she was exchanging casual banter with him."

So, everyone, we do all know that strippers are humans with whom it is not inherently scandalous to interact, right? Like, it is sort of funny, admittedly, for the mayor of Newark to do so, but there is actually nothing even remotely untoward about it. Booker is single, even! He can flirt!

Not that the New York Times and BuzzFeed ever said the flirting was scandalous. They were just point it out! Just saying, hey, look at this thing that we do not consider scandalous, at all! Right, Benny Johnson?


Benny Johnson is full of shit. "Interesting" in a headline either means "here is something salacious that we would like people to feign outrage about" or it means nothing at all.

This comes shortly after the National Review made a big stink about how they were suing Booker to obtain records related to a murder Booker claimed to have witnessed. I supported their suit, until it turned out that a) the National Review actually didn't have any claim to those records under New Jersey's open records laws and b) readily obtainable reports backed up Booker's version. Dammit, everyone, stop totally whiffing your Booker attacks.

So look, let's all be more concerned with how Booker is a school-privatizing social insurance-cutting finance industry ally and not worry about who he's Tweeting with. Read this instead of that.

By Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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