Why Are Meg Whitman's Delinquent Sons Off-Limits to the Press?

Editor's Note: Meg Whitman's son Griffith Harsh was charged with felony battery after pushing a woman, causing her to break her ankle (the charges were ultimately dismissed). Her younger son, Will Harsh, is rumored to have been kicked out of an exclusive Princeton club after using the N-word. Below, Keli Goff asks if Whitman's sons' misbehavior should be covered by the media.

There seemed to be few issues that the final candidates in the 2008 presidential election agreed on, except for one. Their families—specifically their kids—should be off-limits. During her post-election appearance on the "Oprah Winfrey Show” Sarah Palin lamented what she saw as the media’s double-standard in its willingness to honor President Obama’s request that his family remain off-limits, versus the coverage hers faced. (I know what you’re thinking. Sarah Palin blaming the media for something? I must be making that up!)

Just a few weeks ago Glenn Beck did the unthinkable and actually apologized for a dig at the president, more specifically, for a segment on his radio show involving the president’s daughter after it elicited widespread criticism. But despite Obama and Beck’s rare moment of agreement on this issue, the children of candidates should not be issued an automatic, lifetime free pass, just as they shouldn’t be issued a lifetime bulls-eye on their backs either.

We judge candidates on all sorts of things, from the substantive (their policy positions), to the shallow (the way they dress, or in Palin’s case how much they spend on the clothes). If parenting is the most important job in the world, shouldn’t you as a voter be allowed to judge how well the candidate has done at that job?

I began thinking about this after viewing the new attack ad released by Meg Whitman’s campaign targeting her Democratic rival for governor, Jerry Brown. The ad argues that Brown’s entire career in politics has been full of failures and also questions his judgment and leadership.

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As everyone with access to a computer now knows, Whitman’s own leadership has been marred by at least one “alleged” incident of manhandling (or in her case woman-handling) a subordinate, an incident rumored to have been resolved with a six-figure settlement. But in my mind equally disturbing are the series of “alleged” incidents involving her adult sons. Between them they have been accused of assault and of having some questionable racial attitudes, to put it mildly. You can read about the allegations here and here.

While I was initially hesitant to write about them at all, since yes, I know they are not the ones running for office, I thought about it and wondered why I shouldn’t. Don’t her children represent one of Whitman’s most significant contributions to the world, as does the child of any person? Furthermore, if Whitman has been accused of having temperament issues in the workplace and her children are accused of having temperament issues as well, doesn’t that raise questions about her leadership skills at work and home?

This story first appeared on the Loop21.


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