Mark Sanford Press Coverage: Not Exactly an Equal Opportunity Affair

Like many scandals involving sex, politicians and extramarital affairs, it’s hard not to mention it each time the lawmaker pops up in the news. Think Weiner. Craig. Foley. Edwards. Vitter. Ensign. Condit. Spitzer. Hart. Clinton. Up front, bold and in the most clever manner possible is the way many publications go. But in the case of former S.C. Gov and Congressman Mark Sanford, news outlets appear to be scattered on how to handle the situation.

The Wrap poses a simple, entertaining question in an email promo for a story: “Can Stephen Colbert’s Sister Beat Disgraced Ex-S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford?” Drudge appears to be aligned with some of his GOP colleagues. They headlined it and highlighted the affair, calling him “philandering” in the headline. HuffPost‘s headline doesn’t have anything about philandering. But they do call it a “Race For the Ages” on the homepage.

National Journal, meanwhile, went with the refined, understated “Stephen Colbert’s Sister Could Beat Sanford” promo. The headline was similarly understated: “Why Stephen Colbert’s Sister Could Beat Mark Sanford.” But the deck went for the dirt: “Scandal-plagued candidates have a lousy track record winning elections.” Like HuffPost, NJ writer Josh Kraushaar calls it a “matchup for the ages.” Number of sentences it took before referring to Sanford’s cheating ways: 5. Number of references to the cheating or scandal in the 12-graph story: 8.

WaPo‘s conservative writer Jennifer Rubin humorously plopped down the news with no sensitivity whatsoever. “Well, you can’t say former South Carolina governor Mark Sanford is trying to hide the woman with whom he had an affair and for whom he abandoned his office for several days and ultimately his wife and children,” she wrote in a sentence leaving a reader gulping for air. And later, this: “I can’t wait to hear Sanford explain his position on same-sex marriage and hear his definition of the institution (one man and one woman, a hike, and another woman ?).”

Capitol Hill pubs reacted as follows… Roll Call: “South Carolina: Sanford Wins GOP Nomination for Special.” Reporter Abby Livingston avoids any mention of the affair, cheating or the Appalachian Trail. The Hill: “Mark Sanford wins South Carolina House GOP primary runoff.” Reporter Cameron Joesph refers to his “rehabilitation” and “extramarital affair” in graph three. Politico’s equally subdued headline: “Sanford wins, to face Colbert Busch.” Reporter Alex Isenstadt also waited until graph three to write about Sanford’s “lie” and “admitting to having an affair with an Argentinian woman.”

The conservative-leaning Daily Caller didn’t mention scandal in their headline. They wrote, “It’s official: Mark Sanford will face off against Colbert’s sister.” The deck, however, spoke to it, saying, “The governor left office in 2010 surrounded by scandal after admitting to an affair.”

Slate‘s Dave Weigel, a BIG fan of FishbowlDC, took the contrarian viewpoint on the Sanford story. The headline on his story? “Opening Act: The Boring Resurrection of Mark Sanford.” Weigel has theories of why the Sanford story is done and boring, although considering the media outpouring we think he might be, ahem, wrong. 1. Newt Gingrich cheated and South Carolina forgave him. 2. BuzzFeed didn’t send a reporter to the Sanford victory party. 3. The election is taking too long; it’s not for another six weeks. Read the rest of his meandering thoughts.

By the way, Sanford will appear on CNN’s “The Lead” with Jake Tapper today at 4 p.m. No doubt they chose him because it’s a “boring” story no one cares about.

Thankfully the New York Post did what’s expected of them. They dove in head first with scandal on the brain. The headline: “Sanford unveils ‘Appalachian Trail’ fiancee, will face Stephen Colbert’s sis in special election.” The Associated Press story they published includes the following grand total of scandal references: 9.


Publish date: April 3, 2013 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT