Go to HHH home page.
Smart Politics
 


Censuring the Media's Censure Coverage of SD Senator-Page Scandal

Bookmark and Share

On Wednesday the South Dakota State Senate voted 32-2 to censure Democratic Senator Dan Sutton, in the wake of allegations that Sutton groped a male page in a hotel room in 2006. While the charges are disturbing in and of themselves, the media's coverage of the scandal—not surprisingly—tended to sensationalize this already sensationalistic case.

In particular, the media's framing of the alleged victim as a "teen"—frequently in news headlines—gave the story an even more lurid frame than was perhaps appropriate. To most minds, a "teen" or "teenager" usually connotes a minor in their junior high or high school years. In this case, the alleged victim was an adult—18 years old—when the incident is claimed to have taken place last year.

Admittedly, if the allegations are true—that Sutton slept in the same bed with the page and fondled him—the fact that the page was an adult is not much of a mitigating factor (given the Senate-page power structure of the relationship as well as the fact that the alleged act was not consensual and that Sutton is also married).

Still, in light of Mark Foley's U.S. House page scandal last year that did involve minors, references to the alleged victim in the South Dakota case as a "teen" is purposefully introduced to drive the reader to assume the worst - that Sutton was sexually abusing a child. Here are some recent headlines and coverage of the case:

"Lawmaker: Nothing Wrong with Sharing Bed with Teen." (Philadelphia Daily News, 1/25/07)

"S.D. Teen Accuses Senator of Fondling." (Associated Press, 1/24/07)

"Lawmaker Censured for Sharing a Bed with Teen Page." (WTLV, WJXX Jacksonville, Florida, 1/31/07)

"Members of the South Dakota Senate voted to condemn Sen. Dan Sutton (D-Flandreau) for allegations that he behaved inappropriately with a teenage legislative page." (Minnesota Public Radio, 1/31/07)

"The man who's in the spotlight of a senate hearing was on the hot seat Wednesday night, testifying he didn't see anything wrong with sharing a motel room bed with a teenage page." (KELO-TV, 1/24/07)

"Sutton has denied an allegation of sexual misconduct with a teen Senate page last year." (Argus Leader, 1/18/07)

An earlier attempt by Senate Republicans to expel Sutton from the legislative body failed 20-14, with all 14 votes cast by Republicans. Six Republicans and all 14 Democrats voted against expelling Sutton. The two votes against censure came from two Republicans who had voted to expel him.

Previous post: Lights Out On Lighting Up? Potential Smoking Bans Considered in MN and WI
Next post: Franken's Path to D.C. Could Be a Rocky Road

Leave a comment


Remains of the Data

Which States Have the Longest and Shortest Election Day Voting Hours?

Residents in some North Dakota towns have less than half as many hours to cast their ballots as those in New York State.

Political Crumbs

No 100-Year Curse for Roberts

Defeating his Tea Party primary challenger Milton Wolf with just 48.1 percent of the vote, Pat Roberts narrowly escaped becoming the first elected U.S. Senator from Kansas to lose a renomination bid in 100 years. The last - and so far only - elected U.S. Senator to lose a Kansas primary was one-term Republican Joseph Bristow in 1914. Bristow was defeated by former U.S. Senator Charles Curtis who went on to win three terms before becoming Herbert Hoover's running mate in 1928. Only one other U.S. Senator from the Sunflower State has lost a primary since the passage of the 17th Amendment: Sheila Frahm in 1996. Frahm was appointed to fill Bob Dole's seat earlier that year and finished 13.2 points behind Sam Brownback in the three-candidate primary field. Overall, incumbent senators from Kansas have won 29 times against two defeats in the direct vote era. (Curtis also lost a primary in 1912 to Walter Stubbs, one year before the nation moved to direct elections).


The Second Time Around

Former Republican Congressman Bob Beauprez became the seventh major party or second place gubernatorial candidate in Colorado to get a second chance at the office when he narrowly won his party's nomination last month. Two of the previous six candidates were successful. Democrat Alva Adams lost his first gubernatorial bid to Benjamin Eaton in 1884, but was victorious two years later against William Meyer. Democrat Charles Johnson placed third in 1894 behind Republican Albert McIntyre and Populist incumbent Governor David Waite but returned as the Fusion (Democrat/Populist) nominee in 1898 and defeated GOPer Henry Wolcott. Gubernatorial candidates who received a second chance but lost both general elections include Democrat Thomas Patterson (1888, 1914), Progressive Edward Costigan (1912, 1914), Republican Donald Brotzman (1954, 1956), and Republican David Strickland (1978, 1986).


more POLITICAL CRUMBS

Humphrey School Sites
CSPG
Humphrey New Media Hub

Issues />

<div id=
Abortion
Afghanistan
Budget and taxes
Campaign finances
Crime and punishment
Economy and jobs
Education
Energy
Environment
Foreign affairs
Gender
Health
Housing
Ideology
Immigration
Iraq
Media
Military
Partisanship
Race and ethnicity
Reapportionment
Redistricting
Religion
Sexuality
Sports
Terrorism
Third parties
Transportation
Voting