Unethical Website of the Month: Wonkette

That's right, Wonkette---GET HIM!!!

Wonkette the left-leaning political snark site, showed its true colors ( I flagged the site as ethically unbearable in a post six years ago, when it defended Dan Rather during “Memogate”) when it allowed editor Jack Steuf to post “satire” early this week  ridiculing Sarah Palin’s toddler son Trig, who is a Down Syndrome child. Entitled “Greatest Living American: A Children’s Treasury of Trig Crap On His Birthday,” the post contains sick-humor jokes about the 3-year-old ( After quoting from a Palin posted birthday poem for Trig referencing his dreams, Steuf snickers, “What’s he dreaming about? Nothing! He’s retarded!”) and proceeds to use the child as its target while demeaning Palin.  A sample:

“That strange man yelling unintelligibly at Sarah Palin? He’s merely a lowly shepherd proclaiming the birth of our savior. Today is the day we come together to celebrate the snowbilly grifter’s magical journey from Texas to Alaska to deliver to the America the great gentleman scholar Trig Palin. Is Palin his true mother? Or was Bristol? (And why is it that nobody questions who the father is? Because, either way, Todd definitely did it.) It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we are privileged to live in a time when we can witness the greatest prop in world political history….Why just celebrate tax day today, April 18th? It’s also Trig Paxson Van Palin’s 3rd birthday. His mom went to a lot of trouble to leak amniotic fluid over 8 states to make sure that he arrived in this world somewhat alive Sarah went to a whole lot of trouble to name him ‘Van Palin,’ a ‘Van Halen’ reference he will never get..Enjoy yourself today, Trig. Have fun! Get drunk (on purpose this time)! We can hardly wait for 15 years from now, when you will finally be able to vote and will be sent off by your mother’s junta to fight the Union in the Great Alaska War. It’ll be quite a loss. You’re the smartest one in that family.”

As if this wasn’t enough (and there is more), the post also included some Youtube videos making fun of the little boy.

I’m largely relying on second-hand reports here, because by the time I learned about the post, Wonkette had taken it down. Not because the site had the taste and decency to recognize that publicly attacking a three-year-old with Down Syndrome was despicable, but because they were losing sponsors over the post—-Papa Johns, Huggies, the Vanguard Group, Holland America Cruises, Nordstrom, Bob Evans Farms, Reliant Energy, DealSwarm and Coldwell Banker all pulled their ads from the site. Indeed, the site’s editor. Ken Layne, was initially defiant about the post, engaging in this exchange with Tommy Christopher of Mediaite in which he insisted that the post was legitimate satire and refused to take it down.

Then he took it down. Funny how leaking money will have that effect. In a display of ideological hatred undiluted by any ethical instincts whatsoever, the Layne sent Ad Week this jokey non-apology apology after the post was deleted:

“I have four kids myself and I wouldn’t want them mocked on the Internet by a bunch of cretins on the Internet. And that’s just one reason why I wouldn’t parade my children around in the media. What kind of mother does that? In any case, Jack has been admonished and put on night probation until further notice. Anything involving Palin, I want to make it extra clear that *Palin* is the problem with America. Not her kids. Not her little kid, anyway. The older ones seem to be on their own path and you can’t really blame Sarah for it, although she certainly encourages the sleaziest possible behavior from her grown children, which is hardly a very “family values” thing to do. But as far as Jack’s future, a few months on the night shift  cleaning up the furious, ALLCAPS unmoderated Wonkette comments, without pay, should teach him a thing or two about writing stuff that confuses the target. Trig is cool with us. Sarah Palin, on the other hand, is a grave danger to America.

Whatever one thinks of politicians using their young children to humanize themselves and attract families, it is a well-established American political tactic. Excusing the abuse of a child on the grounds that this is such an egregious offense in Sarah Palin’s case is no more than another example of the Palin-derangement double standard, whereby whatever Palin does is by definition worthy of the most vicious attack, so matter how unremarkable it is. Just sticking to U.S. Presidents, I have witnessed the frequent and effective use of children as campaign assets by Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, and Obama…all Democrats, coincidentally.

An organization that can rationalize a direct assault on a helpless child whose “crime” is the identity of his mother is rotting from within. This is Wonkette, ethically retarded.

7 thoughts on “Unethical Website of the Month: Wonkette

  1. This absolutely sickens me. The unkind, appalling comments made about this little child and family are disgusting. Wonkette is being controlled by some sorry excuses of human beings.

      • A Palin fan, I am not. But even Sarah Palin’s family does not deserve such hateful, horrendous comments. The lack of common decency, compassion, or simple civility astounds me.

        Rationalize all they want. Bad behavior is bad behavior.

  2. Enuf Nasty Steuf. Wonkette is a place no one should go. Fortunately for your blog-viewers, we don’t have to add to the “hits” on websites like this because you are kind enough to quote entireties and reference contexts.

    And many thanks for sending me off on another exploration on the Good Ship Google with that throwaway line about (coincidentally Democratic) campaign assets. I see “campaign” as extended in the following list to include the time of the parent’s residence in the White House since that is where the campaign continues, for current popularity if not future elections.) Where to begin . . . Let’s see children who weren’t deliberately advertised — cute things! — during their daddies’ campaigns or White House residencies:

    could it be because they were no longer cute young things? … but still …

    ^^ Tricia and Julie? (just because they weren’t kiddies any more didn’t mean they couldn’t be used to stump for daddy — you couldn’t open a magazine without images of them. One might say they were used to soften the Tricky Dick image, (and used, and used);
    ^^ Susan had her senior prom in the Ford White House — that couldn’t have impressed her high school generation;
    ^^ Taft’s daughter Helen was the official White House hostess — gee, I bet nobody thought more of her father because of her loyal services;
    ^^ The marriage of Julie to Ike’s boy (that wasn’t publicized at bit, either, with continual reference to aims that were, ahem!, not exactly those of the Democratic party.) As I recall, the Eisenhower-Nixon couple — AS presidential offspring — were at the forefront of defense of the presidencies during Vietnam and that Watergate thing. Why would that help Our Leaders’ interests?
    ^^Maureen Reagan? Oh, for sure her relentless advocacy for her father couldn’t have influenced voters.
    ^^ G. H. W. Bush … interesting situation. A reverse generational exploitation. “W” certainly would have made it on his own.
    ^^ Hoover, Jr. Okay. Neutral.
    THE REALLY EFFECTIVE ASSETS (to the other side):
    ^^ the Harding children (one disgraced the White House; the other was disgraced by it)
    ^^ Patricia Ann Reagan’s tough fight against everything her father stood for
    and then there’s her brother …
    ^^ Ron Jr., on the ‘third’ hand, could be considered (1) an asset to the Reagans in terms pour encourager les gais, however quietly; (2) or neutral, since he chose to live apart from what was going on in politics during his father’s administration; and perhaps, (3) negatively, as one whose sexual orientation, then (and still?) unacceptable to an oft-polled majority of the Republican Party, has been suggested to be a reason his influential parent chose to stay mum on the word “AIDS” until it had become a fatal pandemic — because it had started out as the “gay plague.”

    Sidebar: If I could figure out how to use the HTML, it would be neater but it would take much longer to write.

    • I like the research! You must admit, though, the using of children as props excuse doesn’t have the same ethical bite when adults like Juie and Tricia are involved—they are consenting, after all. I was surprised that all the infants and kids were Democrats…and remember, the time span was my lifetime, so Taft and Harding don’t qualify.

  3. I’m not sure where the upper age limit is in a child “consenting” to do what its parents want for themselves, especially if he or she is made to feel benefitted by doing so. But child-baring became unethical the first time the daguerrotyped subject on the bear rug grew old enough to be embarrassed by it. In this age of untrammeled social media, of an apparently god-given right of anyone to place his own name on everyone else’s “need to know” list, and of an evil alliance of paparazzi armed with high-spy technology — it’s good to know there are still lows that most people won’t stoop to. Even though the taking down of the post was not directly due to righteously angry, disgusted and appalled responses of individuals: opinions still don’t count in that case, it takes an appeal to money. …and off into the realm of the ethics of sponsor censorship we go . . . .

    I’ll take back Taft and Harding (and Hoover?) if you like. I went all the way back to Teddy with my presidential parenting search just to see what my own parents’ generation had in the way of attacks on our “royal” families. Good grief! But I had to draw the line at FDR, Jr. who went and married a Republican.

  4. Dear Jack: That “apology” from this Layne character reminds me that I left a “Hounddog” analogy out of my post yesterday… and one I should have remembered, since it came to me personally from one of the studio executives. Call it the “I’m A Father Myself” pledge. Hounddog Equivalent: “I’d never let that be done with MY children.” My answer to Mr. Layne (as it was with the other) would be, “Then God help your kids. If you can vilify or otherwise degrade a child for any purpose, you reveal a fundamental character flaw that reflects on your attitude toward all children.”

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