Media Analysis of a Political Sex Scandal

 

 

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Political scandals are not a so much of a big deal for the past years. But still, it most overwhelms us. In American society where there is a high respect for authorities, it comes as a shock for us whenever the media pays big attention to it. We cannot deny that our country had been a subject for many a political scandals lately. And whenever a political scandal explodes here, not only does it become news on our televisions but around the world as well. It reaches the front pages of almost every newspaper and it is discussed on television almost every night. The impact that it has brought to us is undeniably enormous. It makes us ponder on our emotional stability but on a more unconscious side, on how the media presents the news to us. We cannot deny the fact that the media plays a very big role in our society. It can build or destroy a person. In times where issues such as political scandals arise, the media consider themselves responsible in informing the people every angle of the story. And, as information-hungry and curious that we are, most political scandals that we are keen on anticipating are the kind that involves the authority’s sexual innuendos—or more popularly known as political sex scandals. Indeed, when the media presents their reports on such subjects, it is inevitable that there will be added details to the true and original story. Also, there will always be talks about politics and gender when political sex scandals occur.

Political “Scandal”

There are three major categories of American political scandals—federal, state-and-local and sex. Sometimes, these three categories are interchangeable and overlapping. A scandal may be viewed by the nature of the alleged unlawful activity. (answers.com, 2007) Often, political scandals start whenever a public official has done something wrong. However, it is not enough to start a scandal. It also involves public outrage and reaction. And, at the end, should require disclosure with the public. (Dudley, 2007) Nevertheless, it is not always clear whenever a politician can be considered involved in a “scandal”. Of course, it should live up to the given requirements of a “scandal”.

“Major” Political Scandal

There really is no clear demarcation line when a scandal can be considered “minor” or “major”. But one common factor that it should involve is that, no matter how big or small a scandal may be, still, a political figure is drawn in and his malicious acts are exposed. Consequently, its impact on society and especially on our morals should be of great significance. (answers.com, 2007) Oftentimes, the people involved in most major political scandals—especially those of sexual in nature—are either forced to resign or imposed an impeachment.

The Monica Lewinsky-Bill Clinton Scandal

In 1998, former U.S president Bill Clinton was impeached for allegedly having an affair with then Whitehouse intern Monica Lewinsky. (Encyclopedia, 2007) The affair said to have begun in 1995 when Lewinsky got the unpaid job as intern in the Whitehouse. In a text written by Douglas Linder, she admitted to Clinton that she had a crush on him. (Linder, 2005) In 1996, Evelyn Lieberman transferred her to the Pentagon to avoid scandal. Eventually, Lewinsky lost her job at the Pentagon but still, she was given access to enter the Whitehouse at nights and on weekends. (Weltner, February, 1998) The scandal had brought both parties into a long and rigorous judicial proceeding. Lewinsky was eventually granted immunity from talking to the prosecution in exchange for her detailed testimony about her liaisons with the president. (Who2.com, 2007) As for the president’s part, from the beginning, family members and people close to him denied any knowledge about the affair. Under oath, Clinton denied any sexual relationship (with Lewinsky). But later on, he was forced to admit into having an “inappropriate relationship”. When he said this, the Congress impeached him but eventually won the case when it reached the Senate. (Who2.com, 2007) Even though he got acquitted, the last three years of his office was not easy. The scandal eventually stained his name and administration.

From the brief overview that was said above, the case is basically a show of power and authority. From the fact that Lewinsky admitted that she had a crush on him, is enough evidence to say that the president has overused his authority over a “fan”. This is just another case wherein ego, power and masculinity can be used to get what you want. He obviously took advantage of her feelings and position. This is a classic situation wherein man per se can use his might to take advantage of woman. It also shows that

The Media Coverage

Of course, the media was all focused in the issue because after the Watergate scandal, the president of the state was again the center of an alarming, intriguing and shocking scandal. Since day one, the media was all abuzz with the news. It easily reached the tabloids, newspapers, television and even radio. Every minor and major detail was not spared. It was long feast day for the media when the news broke out. Given the fact that the political ordeal lasted for almost a year, every moment, development, twists and turns to the issue was covered by the media. For almost a year, the affair was a constant talk of the town. Because of so much coverage that the media gave to it, it is safe to say that in reality, the news became too much. According from a poll that was conducted in 1998, nearly three quarters of Americans think that the news is getting too much coverage. (AllPolitics.com, 1998) Also from the same poll, 55% of 672 respondents think that the media acted irresponsibly and 77% said that the media is actually concerned more than getting the latest development on the story rather than getting the right side of the story. And, to a 40% of the respondents, they think that actually, the organization or the media men covering the story does not actually care about the whole event. (AllPolitics.com, 1998)

From the figures that are cited above, it only means to say that majority of the media covering the story is irresponsible. With the too much coverage that it had received, this only states one thing—that the story is inevitably being sensationalized. And in the world of journalism, sensationalism is a big offense. It is a mark of being a terrible and an irresponsible journalist. And, it is to be expected that there will be media people or organizations who got biased. And biasness, as we all know does not have a place in the media. We all know that the media is supposed to always give the two sides of the story. Secondly, a big percentage of the respondents think that the media became too obsessed in getting the story first-hand rather than getting the right angle of it. With this connotation, it is safe to believe that we are getting a low quality reporting. It only implies that the news that came out during the scandals is not in-depth and not thoroughly researched. Most of the times during the duration of the case, a good number of media people do not care what kind of news they deliver to the public. They just wanted to have a first-hand grab on the news for the ratings. And we all know that whoever has the latest news gets a higher rating.

The media has undeniably played a big role in the scandal. It only did not give us a blow by blow account of the events. Shows like Larry King Live gave us in-depth opinions and realizations of the scandal. Reports delivered by the media to the public had in effect caused frenzy not just to us but also to the people that are involved in the scandal. Information that leaked out in the public can become a source of counter arguments for both parties (involved). There were information that reached the public we are not supposed to know about; and this kind of media irresponsibility should not have been tolerated by a greater number of media organizations. But sad to say, they were not apprehended by the same people who handled them. It was all just for the ratings.

The Cover-Up

Often, a cover-up is involved in many political sex scandals. In some cases, these cover-ups can lead to “formal criminal charges of obstruction of justice or perjury.” (answers.com, 2007) And in many cases, the denials, deceptions and efforts that were involved in the cover-up becomes more scandalous than the scandal itself and in effect, can damage more political careers. (answers.com, 2007)

In the case of the Lewinsky-Clinton affair, there were many measures that were done to cover-up the scandal. The most intriguing would be Hilary Clinton’s statement to the public that she did not know of the affair. She claimed that she only knew of the affair when her husband knew that Washington Post is going to publish a story about it. When the First Lady appeared on The Today Show in January 27, she avoided any denying and damning allegations that can be credibly proved. (O’Beirne, October 12, 1998) She defended her husband by mostly saying positive traits about him. She helped her husband betray the public whenever, wherever and however necessary as long as she remained half of the power couple.  With the actions that the First Lady showed to the public, many people became cynical about her. According from a poll that was conducted in the same year, 63% of Americans believe that she already knew about the affair and only 18% believe that the First Family has a “loving marriage that has troubles”. (O’Beirne, October 12, 1998)

In Kenneth Starr’s report to the Congress eight months later after the scandal, he alleges that the President lied when he claimed that he could not recall “being alone with Lewinsky” and when he said that he did not help her in finding a job. (Pooley, Sept. 21, 1998) Starr also detailed in his report the cover-up that President directed and at the end, still, the cover-up is far worse than the crime. Basically, the President allegedly had a scheme “to buy Lewinsky’s silence by finding her a job” when her name was brought up as a possible witness in the Jones suit. (Pooley, Sept. 21, 1998) This allegation was further solidified when another cover-up allegedly masterminded by the President when Webster Hubbell, a Clinton crony, was paid big money not to talk during the investigation process. It had been known that Hubbell was connected in finding Lewinsky a job. (York, October 2005)

Basically, there are two main actions that the politician has done to cover up the scandal. First, with his wife’s positive views on her husband’s behalf—affirming that he is a very compassionate husband and standing by his side during the whole ordeal. Second and the probably the main cover up, is when he tried to find a job that Lewinsky wanted and demanded. But still in the end, these cover-ups were made to the public and did not become successful.

Gender Issues in the Scandal

There are basically three important people in the scandal that has etched in our minds—mainly Bill Clinton, Hilary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. In the course of the whole extravaganza and the media’s coverage of the whole affair, it was inevitable that many issues aside from the scandal itself would arise. Majority of the views that floated during the scandal was that of the feminists.

Originally, the feminist motto “the personal is political” was a way to bring forth to the public problems that should have been hidden in private realms—in this case, the scandal. It served as a technique to suggest to women who were suffering the same situations were “in fact instances of widespread sexism”. Many feminist have criticized this argument, saying that “it invites unwanted public intervention”. In line with the media’s coverage of the scandal, it vehemently put women’s private lives in a sexist way. (Lange, 2007)

On the other hand, there were critics of the scandal who says how the feminists abandoned their fundamental beliefs just to “blindly follow Bill and Hillary.” Some points that were raised that feminists should have had abandoned Clinton were the fact that he constantly kept calling Lewinsky as “the other woman”, implying that she is just another “self-centered female conspirator” and objectifying Lewinsky. It a feminist view, this is a no-no. A very big point also was the fact that the President consistently used his superiority “as a means to seduce his employees”; and in a feminist point of view, isn’t this considerably a sexual harassment? The President also repeatedly justified his “obstruction of justice” as having been in response to a lawsuit. But if the President was in favor of his “feminist constituents’ beliefs”, he should have allowed justice to run its normal course instead of defying his employer’s accusations. And lastly, Mrs. Clinton’s neglect and eventual acceptance of her husband’s infidelity is just an indication that their marriage is strictly for “political convenience”. (eric, May 2007)

Many people view the scandal as something positive for Mrs. Clinton. In a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 1998, two-thirds (or 66% of 498 interviews) said that “they admire Hillary Clinton’s decision to stand by her husband” and only fourteen percent favors Lewinsky. (Center, 1998) Since Hillary Clinton’s win in the senatorial race in 2001, the scandal has gained her unfavorable remarks in the first two years and the “White House years” was regarded for it; and also her failure of “leadership of the health reform initiative.” But once again, she rebounded during the 1996 presidential election. It is also believed that the Lewinsky scandal was largely in favor of her. (Arithmetik, January 2007)

In the same survey, it said that women in general does not condemn Clinton but married women has otherwise unsympathetic perspective.  Still, there are a number of Americans who view Mr. Clinton “favorably” and supports him. (Center, 1998) The Feminist Majority further supports this claim. In a letter addressed to the public in December 1998, they called for to stop the “impeachment spectacle that has overtaken” the political system. They believed that the Congress is “about to impeach a president who has the support of two-thirds of the American people.” (Majority, 1998)

The scandal has made quite a stir in many gender related issues. It has done some unfavorable effects on the “victim”—Lewinsky but a positive effect for Mr. Clinton. But, it was the First Lady who showed to the world that he stands by his man that turned this whole fiasco into her advantage. After the trial, Lewinsky tried to live a normal life and got a masters degree but for the two Clinton’s, they turned the world for their own benefits. After the trial, the Clinton’s was on a path into having a political dynasty by having Mrs. Clinton elected as senator and now, running for president.

The Politics in the Scandal

In the Lewinsky-Clinton scandal, sex and politics come hand in hand. From the beginning, the biggest name involved in the scandal was the President himself. With the power and the connections that he has, every woman must have been attracted. But Monica Lewinsky was the luckiest (?) of them all for she had a ground to “extort” the President for jobs that she wanted. And since he is the leader of a free country, he used his connections in finding his mistress a job. He contacted Vernon Jordan, a lawyer with many connections, hoping that he can give Lewinsky a job that she wishes. (Pooley, Sept. 21, 1998) Also, it was reported that the President and Vernon Jordan urged Monica Lewinsky to “lie under oath” when she was subpoenaed to testify in a lawsuit. (Company, 1998) Another angle that was highly speculated was that, the President’s opponents are trying to remove him from his position. Prosecution lawyer Kenneth Starr has reportedly spent four years and $40 million dollars just to prove that the President has indeed done something wrong but he came up dry so he used Linda Tripp’s tapes to catch the President. (Pooley, Sept. 21, 1998) We can also note that the Starr report was very graphic.

Political Campaigns and Bad Advertising

The scandal became a commonplace for the opponents to accuse the President unworthy behavior. The purpose of the ads is to “simply create a temporary negative association with a certain candidate.” (answers.com, 2007) As far as the press’ role in the scandal,  according to one study, they have “tended to describe anonymous sources in the vaguest terms in covering the Clinton-Lewinsky saga.” (Journalist, March 1998) Also, one journalist who covered the saga was Keith Olbermann; was accused of “liberal bias”, denied that it is not true; that when he was covering the saga, nobody called him that. He said that he was just being “politically correct.” (Wilmouth, July 2006) There was even a report saying that Lewinsky denied that the President has urged her to lie in a lawsuit. (Grey, August 1998)

Conclusion

The Lewinsky-Clinton Scandal will be forever part of our nation’s history. When it first came out, the media was all abuzz about it. There had been surveys, polls and studies conducted on how the media acted, reported and conducted their reports. In the course of over a year; it really did not lose a spot in the print, television and internet. And so, it becomes too much for the public and somewhere along the way, the coverage of the news becomes superficial and overrated. And, with so many news sources available, it is inevitable that we get confuse on what is the truth or what is not. And, with so much coverage that it has attained; it had also influenced many feminist groups that had supported or abandoned both Lewinsky and Clinton.

This whole charade of frenzy is not about “how much of an effect or what kind of effect media has on politics” but moreover, the effects of politics on the media. (Stoutenborough, 2007)

 

References:

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