When political scandals break, like the latest involving U.S. Sen. Larry Craig, they are sure to consume the media cycle for at least 48 hours – examined from every angle and, in this case, reenacted by television newscasters.
What’s unique about this latest breaking news is that it’s not breaking at all. Craig was arrested nearly three months ago and everyone missed it. When Editor & Publisher asked how the scandal was overlooked, even the man who broke the story, Roll Call reporter John McArdie, was surprised.
“You would think in the 24-hours news cycle, something like this would slip through,” said McArdie, a four-year veteran of the Capitol Hill daily. “He wanted to keep it quiet, and he almost got away with it.”
McArdie was tipped off about the story last week. He wouldn’t name the tipster who told him that Craig, an Idaho Republican, pleaded guilty to making advances at a male undercover officer in the men’s restroom at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Craig had faced allegations of gay sex before, but they have never been substantiated. Nonetheless, one would think that the press would be keeping a close eye on him. In fact, The Idaho Statesman of Boise had been investigating those claims for five months, but never ran the story until news of Craig’s arrest surfaced in The Statesman saying it had “declined to run a story about Craig’s sex life, because the paper didn’t have enough corroborating evidence and because of the senator’s steadfast denial.”
On Tuesday, Craig was still denying. He also accused the Statesman of harassing him and conducting a “witch hunt.” The result of that hunt, ironically, might never have surfaced had Roll Call not been told about Craig’s misdemeanor charge. Now, as proven by the non-stop coverage, a much larger group of hunters is trying to make up for the fact that it initially missed bagging big game: a politician caught up in a scandal.
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