Weiner is hardly the first liberal politician to be caught with his pants down by a dubious news source. He’s not even the only prominent Democrat whose case is currently making headlines. Former U.S. senator and vice-presidential candidate John Edwards has been indicted for allegedly using campaign funds to cover up the love child he fathered with his campaign videographer. The story that led to his troubles was broken several years ago by the National Enquirer.
And Edwards is just the latest example of this strange phenomenon. It was also the Enquirer that revealed, more than a decade ago, that the Rev. Jesse Jackson had done the same with one of his aides. Before that, another supermarket tabloid, the Star, paid Arkansas hairdresser Gennifer Flowers for details about her affair with Bill Clinton. And before that, the Enquirer published photos of former Sen. Gary Hart with model Donna Rice on his lap.
And, for whatever it’s worth, the tabloid breathlessly reported in 2008 that Sarah Palin had an extramarital affair while she was mayor of the town of Wasilla, Alaska.
Despite that string of scoops, it would be downright foolhardy for the rest of the media or anyone else to accept any claim by the Enquirer and its ilk as the truth without strong independent verification. For one thing, such publications pay snitches for information, and if you pay enough, you can always get what you pay for. It may or may not be true.
But questionable as the supermarket tabloids’ journalistic practices may be, they look transparent and aboveboard compared with the little we know about Breitbart’s techniques. Plus, what the tabloids report often checks out.
Not so with Breitbart. In both the Sherrod and ACORN cases, independent analysts have concluded that he or his colleagues deliberately distorted the facts to reach sensational conclusions. In short, his reports were propaganda masquerading as journalism. He’s still not to be trusted, even though, like Ebner-Eschenbach’s stopped clock, this time he was right.
Jack White is a frequent contributor to The Root.