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

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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