Backlash blues

Will the Larry Craig scandal bolster anti-gay bias?
By ADAM REILLY  |  September 6, 2007

DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS (Left to right) Congressman Mark Foley, Senator Larry Craig, Reverend Ted Haggard’s hypocrisy may have actually emboldened homophobic tendencies.

Larry Craig’s insistence that he wasn’t soliciting sex in that airport bathroom seems absurd, but it pales next to Florida legislator Bob Allen’s excuse. Allen was arrested in July for offering to give an undercover police officer a blow job in a park bathroom (and to pay him $20 for the favor). He subsequently explained that, since the officer and the other men in park were all black, he worried he was “about to become a statistic” and did what he had to to protect himself. Allen is white, obviously. He also has an anti-gay voting record — and, at the time of his arrest, he was John McCain’s Florida campaign co-chair.
Most big news stories fit the snowball metaphor, with an isolated fact or two slowly gaining significance and momentum over a period of days or weeks. But not the recent political downfall of Senator Larry Craig (R-Idaho) — which, in retrospect, was less like a gradual accumulation of detail and meaning and more like a massive avalanche.

On the afternoon of Monday, August 27, the Capitol Hill paper Roll Call posted a story revealing that Craig had pled guilty to soliciting sex in a men’s room in the Minneapolis airport back in June. The next day, with most American dailies rushing to catch up with Roll Call’s scoop, the Idaho Statesman advanced the story with a dauntingly thorough look (300 sources?!?) at longstanding rumors of Craig’s homosexuality. By Wednesday — less than two full days after the story broke — the Statesman was defending both its exhaustive analysis of Craig’s sexual history and its decision to sit on the story until after Roll Call’s report. Meanwhile, the online magazine Slate was treating readers to a detailed video reenactment of Craig’s bathroom kabuki; the New York Times was situating the Craig contretemps in the broader context of current GOP woes; and the whole story was starting to feel played out. When Craig finally announced his resignation on September 1, it felt like it had been preordained for weeks, not mere days.

News moves faster now, of course — but that alone doesn’t explain the explosion of Craig coverage. Instead, a host of factors combined to turn Craig’s travails into a perfect media story. With Labor Day looming, it was a classic slow-news week. What’s more, the story was pegged not to an allegation but to an actual confession — one that was promptly posted online at sites like and, where it joined video of Craig’s awkward press conference (“I am not gay”) and, later, audio of Craig’s post-arrest interview in a nice, tidy multimedia package. And, thanks to the Statesman’s timidity/prudence, that paper’s sexposé was ready and waiting — which, thanks to the Web, meant that national readers quickly had access to the kind of thorough background report that wouldn’t usually have been available for days or weeks.

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Related: Not that there’s anything wrong with that, Thanks all around, Molière than thou, More more >
  Topics: Media -- Dont Quote Me , John McCain, U.S. Republican Party, U.S. Republican Party Politics,  More more >
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