Adding value to sex scandals

Value-Added-FP-newSomeone suggested I take a look at the four stories the Washington Post ran on the Sanford scandal yesterday. Only problem was that when I went online to find those stories, I found 60 (sixty!) items dated June 25 about the scandal. And 143 items so far this week. These include articles, blog posts, hosted discussions, photos and even audio and video. And don’t forget the poorly written columns.

By comparison, they’ve run only three items all week about the scandal regarding President Obama’s firing of Inspector General Gerald Walpin. It’s just an interesting comparison.

As I mentioned yesterday, almost all of the coverage is about politics and the political fallout. You’ve got your snarky Dana Milbank routine. There’s an Associated Press report about Jenny Sanford that surprisingly, given her faith-infused statement the other day, only gives the most casual mention of religion — someone is quoted saying she has faith. Another AP report says Sanford will pay the state back for some trips he took on the taxpayer dime that included visits with the mistress. And much, much, much, much, much more.

If you doubt that this is overload, please check out this Washington Post Style piece written by Hank Stuever and Wil Haygood. They try really, really hard to make the lovelorn governor look crazy by taking his comments out of context and breaking them up into fragments and moving them around. Every time you hear that papers don’t have enough space to fill with good stories, think about this piece. It’s utterly bizarre. And considering that the press conference around which it was built was bizarre enough, I don’t mean that as a compliment. It’s also just hateful, snarky (without the benefit of insight) and completely clueless. Like, just because you don’t get religious rhetoric doesn’t mean that it doesn’t make sense. Here’s how they introduce the piece:

Wow. Was that a press conference or was that a press conference? That genteel lilt of hubris, sorrow, guilt! But other than a very slow, meandering build to I just needed a little strange, what did it all mean? What language was South Carolina’s Republican governor speaking yesterday as he forlornly told the world of his travels and travails, of how sorry he is to his wife, to his sons, to his staff, to “the Tom Davises of the world” (not the Virginia one, all the other ones)? Is it a new Pat Conroy novel? Is it a megachurch sermon? Is it the language of couples therapy? The metaphysics of Oprah? Shakespeare? The psychobabble of cheating husbands? (Note all the passive constructions, the avoidance of first person.) “Evita”? (“I spent the last five days of my life crying in Argentina . . .”)

It’s all of those things, and deliciously more, squeezed into 18 seemingly improvisational minutes. Herewith, Style’s annotation:

Hint: if you’re going to claim that there’s an avoidance of the first person, don’t make the next example be a sentence that uses the first person. In fact, of the quotes they sample from, there are 20 instances of the singular first person and eight of the plural first person. Sigh.

And here’s the portion on faith:

FAITH LIFTS

A cross between the language of prayer groups and Oprah metaphysics

“I am here because if you were to look at God’s laws, they are in every instance designed to protect people from themselves. . . . It’s not a moral, rigid list of do’s and don’ts, just for the heck of do’s and don’ts. It is, indeed, to protect us from ourselves.”

“And the biggest self of self is, indeed, self.”

“That sin is in fact grounded in this notion of what is it that I want as opposed to somebody else.”

“God’s law, indeed, is there to protect you from yourself and there are consequences if you breach that. This press conference is a consequence.”

“I’ve been to a lot of different [meetings] of what we called C Street when I was in Washington. It was a, believe it or not, a Christian Bible study with some folks that asked members of Congress hard questions that I think were very, very important.”

“I would say that I am committed to trying to get my heart right. The one thing that Cubby and all the others have told me is that the odyssey we are all on in life is with regard to heart.”

No, I have no idea what the first or second subhead mean. If you do, please do let me know.

As for the rest, what is the purpose of this listing? Clearly the second quote is an example of the distraught governor misspeaking. Good work on catching that, Washington Post! Thanks! I will always find it interesting which misspeaking gets covered by the press and which gets covered up. You can almost always tell who the reporters like and dislike by whether they include their verbal tics when they transcribe the quotes.

Anyway, I highly doubt people pay money to read fragmented quotes taken out of context and jumbled around. They probably wouldn’t mind a piece that makes sense of this crazy press conference and erratic governor. They might not need 143.

Okay, for slightly better work, we can look at one of the many stories that’s in today’s paper. Staff writer Manuel Roig-Franzia looks at the C Street reference and, well, explains it:

But through one week’s events, this stately old pad — a pile of sturdy brick that once housed a convent — has become the very nexus of American scandal, a curious marker in the gallery of capital shame. Mark Sanford, South Carolina’s disgraced Republican governor and a former congressman, looked here for answers — for support, for the word of God — as his marriage crumbled over his affair with an Argentine woman. John Ensign, the senator from Nevada who just seven days earlier also was forced to admit a career-shattering affair, lives there.

“C Street,” Sanford said Wednesday during his diffuse, cryptic, utterly arresting confessional news conference, is where congressmen faced “hard questions.”

On any given day, the rowhouse at 133 C St. SE — well appointed, with American flag flying, white-and-green-trimmed windows and a pleasant garden — fills with talk of power and the Lord.

But check out this paragraph:

The house, which is assessed at $1.84 million, is registered to a little-known organization called Youth With a Mission of Washington DC. [Richard Carver, president of the Fellowship Foundation], who said his Fellowship group is affiliated with the house, said that he has never heard of Youth With a Mission of Washington DC and that he did not have a phone number for it. Later, he said, he spoke with someone who “at one time was involved with the house” and had “heard secondhand” that the organization that runs the house is “subscribing to the no-comment.”

Would that be the super-secret, little-known organization that is hiding out at www.YWAM.org? With these phone numbers?

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  • http://www.tmatt.net tmatt

    FAITH LIFTS

    I assume that is a pun for Face Lifts

  • Beth

    Tangential, but thanks for picking up the hilarious YWAM reference, which made me nearly laugh out loud earlier today. It’s nothing if not one of the most prominent missions organizations, with bases all over the globe; and if a writer isn’t familiar enough with evangelical culture to know that fact, a simple google of the phrase “Youth with a Mission” gives 149,000 results.

  • http://fletchboy.blogspot.com fletchboy

    HAHAHA…..”a little know organization called Youth With a Mission”…and you call that reporting?! Sad.

  • Emily

    I think the phrase “little-known organization” is telling. An organization like YWAM, for however prominent it is in the evangelical Protestant community, *is* little-known to most movers and shakers in D.C. and apparently to these journalists.

  • nathan.

    When I read that paragraph, I thought it odd for different reasons. So, Carver is “president” of the Fellowship and the article says HE has never heard of YWAM even though the house is registered to YWAM? There is no excuse for the reporter’s “little-known” adjective, but Carver has no phone number for the people that own the house? Then Carver says that the organization that runs the house has no comment. Is that the Fellowship that he’s the head of or YWAM that he said he’s never heard of? This is quite a twisted web.

  • Dale

    Just to note a nit-picking legal issue–

    Youth With A Mission (YWAM) may or may not be Youth With A Mission of Washington, D.C. (YWAMDC). It’s very probable that they’re affiliated, but any coverage of the house should note the nature of the relationship between YWAM and YWAMDC. YWAMDC may just be an entity holding the real estate, in which case it’s unlikely that anyone would know anything about it, including much of the staff at YWAM. Regardless, that doesn’t make it a secretive group–many times real estate is held by a corporation or association that is not otherwise active.

  • http://notionscapital.com Mike Licht

    You got it wrong. The Post cites Richard Carver, president of the Fellowship Foundation, whose “group is affiliated with the house” as saying “he has never heard of Youth With a Mission of Washington DC and that he did not have a phone number for it.”

    Post reporters are obviously exploring ownership, use, and tax status of the C Street property. Nobody seems to know if the $1.84 million townhouse is being used for legitimate nonprofit purposes. It appears that YWAM uses the place merely as a DC address of convenience and does not have operations there, a situation with possible legal ramifications.


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