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

Kevin McCarthy Becomes Least Tenured Floor Leader in US House History

At less than four terms, McCarthy has served 423 fewer days in the chamber than any floor leader in U.S. House history and almost 10 years less than the average leader.

Political Crumbs

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).


How Are the Plurality Winners Doing?

Nearly 40 percent of plurality winners of U.S. Senate elections lose their seat in the next election cycle. Will that happen to any of the three such incumbents on the ballot in 2014? Recent polling suggests Democrats Al Franken of Minnesota, Mark Begich of Alaska, and Jeff Merkley of Oregon all currently have an advantage over their nominated/frontrunning GOP opponents, but each is flirting with plurality support once again. Franken led endorsed GOPer Mike McFadden 48 to 42 percent in a new SurveyUSA poll while the polling group showed Merkley with a 50 to 32 percent advantage over Monica Wehby. Begich led each of the three major GOP candidates in last month's PPP survey: 42 to 37 percent over Daniel Sullivan, 41 to 33 percent over Mead Treadwell, and 43 to 27 percent over Joe Miller.


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