Apparently to remind us that it too, like CNN and MSNBC, applies cynical and insulting standards when deciding what its audience will regard as trustworthy commentary, Fox News has announced that it is hiring former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford as a contributor during the 2012 election cycle. Sanford was forced to resign after he shamelessly used his office as a means to conduct a long-distance adulterous romance with his South American fire-cracker soul-mate, going AWOL while supposedly doing his state’s business and lying about it in the process. Is this as bad as what Eliot Spitzer, the disgraced New York governor whom CNN deemed an appropriate hire as a the star of one of its prime time programs, did to end his political career? No. Is it still irresponsible?
1. It rewards unethical behavior and the betrayal of the public. Sanford, like Spitzer, deserves a second chance, but not a second chance that requires collective amnesia about his breach of public trust.
2. Fox is brazenly putting notoriety above competence and trustworthiness as its priority, a per se breach of journalistic ethics. True enough, this isn’t starting an unethical trend, but merely entrenching one: Oliver North and G. Gordon Liddy got long-running radio talk shows out of breaking the law; Sarah Palin abandoned her post in Alaska and was rewarded with a Fox contract; Al Sharpton has built his reputation by never being troubled by the need to be truthful and is now a star on NBC; Dick Morris’s career as a pundit only exists because he was fired for breaching White House confidences to a prostitute. It is still an indefensible practice, and shows how bereft of principle the broadcast news business has become.
3. It is unfair to the many well-qualified political analysts who have not been dishonest and untrustworthy in their careers to elevate this jerk—and his conduct as governor virtually defines the word—to expert status.
Apart from that, it is naked cronyism. Don’t we get enough of this on ESPN, where as a soon as a manager, coach or team general manager gets fired for losing, he instantly becomes an authority worthy of a seat in front of the camera? This is loser chic, in which the media provides beneficial public exposure and a potential platform for a comeback at the audience’s expense. Why are Donna Brazile, and before her Susan Estrich, accorded authority status on news shows as rewards for running wretched presidential campaigns? At least they were only bad at their jobs. Sanford, Spitzer et al. were that, and corrupt.
Perhaps that’s why Donna Brazile just has a regular seat on ABC’s Sunday morning roundtable, while Eliot Spitzer got his own show. If that’s the norm, maybe Fox’s decision to only reward Sanford with a commentator gig shows…progress?
I guess we’ll find out when CNN, MSNBC or Fox hires Rod Blagojevich.
It shouldn’t be long now.