When Did The Press First Go Crazy In Coverage? Ask Gary Hart!
Tomorrow is Gary Hart's birthday, he'll be 82 years old. Hart (born Gary Warren Hartpence) is best known as a lawyer, politician, diplomat and the guy who was the front-runner for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination when he blew up a commanding early lead and eventually dropped out of the race over news reports of marital infidelity.
His rise and fall is portrayed in a new movie called "The Front Runner" starring Wolverine action star Hugh Jackman.
It is an interesting story on a number of levels but one aspect that seems particularly appropriate for the current times is the evolution of the media 30 years ago.
Spoiler alert - um, not really, it's all in the American History books...or should be.
In the movie a Miami newspaper gets word that Hart may be meeting up with a young woman at his condo in DC and so reporters stake out his house, confront him in an alley and an exchange occurs that basically sets the stage for what's to come in terms of media feeding frenzy about the personal lives of candidates.
Other old school established papers aren't quite on-board with the "tabloid-type coverage" but ultimately agree that it is of interest and importance to readers. Yet 64% of polling showed the public felt such coverage was unfair and unwarranted -- no matter, the press pressed in and Hart failed to make an appropriate response because couldn't get his mind around the idea that his personal life was somehow more important than his political ideas and philosophies. Hart felt his personal business was just that - personal and what really counted and what should be covered were his political ideas and plans for the country.
The sense you get is that this was a significant turning point for the American mainstream media - a de-evolution when big national ideas were now subject to being slayed by private personal details. This set the stage for the later downfall of Herman Cain and others, the attack on Judge Kavanaugh and the never ending negative coverage (90+%) of President Trump.
See the movie and decide for yourself -- and watch for one particular scene when the management team of the Washington Post talks about the good old days when President Lyndon Johnson alerted the press that there would be a number of women going in and out of hotel rooms of the campaign and administration and he hoped the press would provide him the same kind of cover of "NO Coverage on personal behavior" that the press gave to JFK! They concluded the meeting saying that they did exactly that.