Mark Sanford and the Media

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The State has some emails of right-wing media types sucking up to Mark Sanford’s office. Josh Marshall calls this “Hacks on Parade.” Steve Benen admits that “media professionals may try to curry favor with a source (or potential source) in the hopes of landing a bigger story or interview,” but goes on to parse this story far too finely:

[T]his Sanford story seems different, to the extent that conservative news outlets communicated to aides for a conservative governor that they’re on his side.

But it’s not what the conservative outlets tell Sanford that’s the issue. It’s what they do. Take Stephen Colbert’s email to Sanford’s office, for example:

As you may know, I declared myself Governor of South Carolina last night. I went power mad for abut 40 seconds before learning that Gov. Sanford was returning today.

If the governor is looking for a friendly place to make light of what I think is a small story that got blown out of scale I would be happy to have him on. In person here, on the phone, or in South Carolina.

Stay strong, Stephen

Colbert’s message highlights what’s actually going on here. Colbert may or may not believe that the Sanford thing was “a small story that got blown out of scale.” But he’s clearly sucking up to get access: he’s going to play it for laughs on the show. He certainly won’t help keep it from being “blown out of scale,” if that’s what he really believes happened. Does anyone really think that it’s only places like the WSJ and the Washington Times that do this sort of thing? How many journalists have told a source, “we want to get your side of the story out” when the story is already pretty clear from more reliable sources?

It’s a hard truth, but Janet Malcolm was right about the journalist:

He is a kind of confidence man, preying on people’s vanity, ignorance or loneliness, gaining their trust and betraying them without remorse. Like the credulous widow who wakes up one day to find the charming young man and all her savings gone, so the consenting subject of a piece of nonfiction learns—when the article or book appears—his hard lesson. Journalists justify their treachery in various ways according to their temperaments. The more pompous talk about freedom of speech and “the public’s right to know”; the least talented talk about Art; the seemliest murmur about earning a living.

Bottom line: it is neither surprising nor unusual that media figures were trying to flatter Mark Sanford while he was the biggest story in America.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily crazy—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America will move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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