Why Are the Media Condoning Sen. John Ensign's Sexcapades?
Sen. John Ensign's (R-Nev.) humiliating sex scandal -- involving personal, legal, and ethical transgressions -- grew more serious last week with reports of incriminating emails. Politico reports this morning that the scandal " has Ensign under siege."
Embattled Republican John Ensign is showing no signs of giving up his Senate seat, but the persistent drip of information about his sex scandal has some colleagues and top Republican aides asking quietly whether he can serve effectively.
The Nevada Republican admitted in June that he'd had an affair with an aide. But rather than putting the problem behind him, the admission was just the first in a long series of damaging revelations that have left other senators wary of working too closely with him -- a significant problem in a clubby body in which success depends on building relationships with other members.
"Like Vitter, Ensign doesn't get invited to a lot of press conferences because no one wants their boss in a photo op with them," said one top GOP aide, referring to Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter, who was identified in 2007 as a client of an alleged prostitution ring.
When senators are afraid to be seen with one of their scandal-plagued colleagues, it's generally a bad sign. Indeed, lawmakers are their most effective when they can partner with colleagues to advance legislation, but his Ensign's GOP colleagues don't want to return his phone calls. Under normal circumstances, it's the kind of dynamic that forces a senator to resign in disgrace.
But if Ensign can survive this, he'll have to send thank-you notes to major news outlets that just don't seem interested in this controversy.
Despite new revelations pointing to possible illegalities, the Washington Post, for example, hasn't run a single article about Ensign's scandal in months. (The Post ran a piece two weeks ago that mentioned the Ensign controversy in passing. The headline: "Democrats' ethical lapses could threaten hold on power.")
What about the Sunday shows? Despite damaging new evidence published this week, the total number of references yesterday to Ensign on the five major Sunday morning shows -- "Meet the Press," "This Week," "Face the Nation," "State of the Union," and "Fox News Sunday" -- was zero. Literally, none.
Three of the five, however, found time for the Eric Massa controversy.
I don't know what political reporters are waiting for here. In general, the media loves political sex scandals. This one involves a shameless hypocrite, who ran on a "family-values" platform, committing adultery with one of his own aides, who happens to be married to another aide. The controversy features the immediate affair, plus alleged ethics violations, hush money, and official corruption.
And yet, no media frenzy. No reporters staked out in front of Ensign's home. No op-eds speculating about the need for Ensign to resign in disgrace. The Washington Post and the Sunday shows are pretending the story doesn't even exist, even after the DNC launched a pretty hard hitting ad on the subject.
"Liberal media"? I don't think so.