Journalist Behavior? CNN's David Gergen Swims In Underwear With George Clooney

Parade Magazine, the nationally distributed Sunday newspaper supplement had a cover reading "GEORGE CLOONEY FOR PRESIDENT" on Sunday. "In his new movie, at least," it said in smaller type.

Inside we were supposed to read a "candid conversation" with CNN political analyst David Gergen -- who was entirely too candid in describing how hanging out with Clooney at his Lake Como villa in Italy led to a "nasty hangover" and "nonstop fun." Apparently, there was Gergen swimming in underpants in the middle of the night. Is this how journalists behave to "soften up their subject"? Clooney can't just wine and dine with the women. He also knows how to seduce journalists into giving him what he wants: puffball publicity. Gergen wrote:

In August, Clooney opened his doors to PARADE for an interview. The other guests that weekend included a human rights activist who has traveled with him to Africa and an L.A. pal of long standing. No girlfriend, no Hollywood. My tally for two days: 10 hours of sleep, 20 hours of talk, one nasty hangover, nonstop fun. Clooney, it turns out, is a master host.

Likewise, he’s an engaging interview on a wide range of topics, starting with his new movie The Ides of March, a taut political drama about loyalty and betrayal, sex and power (in theaters Oct. 7). Clooney cowrote and directed the film, in which he plays an inspirational presidential candidate whose flaws—and reluctance to compromise—may bring him down; Ryan Gosling costars as the candidate’s idealistic press secretary.

But another article on his "reflections"  -- not in the magazine, but on the Parade website -- is much more candid. These are the last paragraphs:

I lost track of time, but by 2 a.m. or so - when I was hammered and was reasonably certain that others were, too - we had become raucous. Out of nowhere, Clooney jumps out of his chair and starts climbing a fence that overlooks the lake below. From the top, fully clothed, he counted, One... two... and jumped. I heard three just before hit the water. Within seconds, he was challenging our masculinity. Okay, guys, let's see your stuff. One other guest was next up and jumped. Hell, I thought, I have an early morning plane and I don't want wet clothes. So... what choice did I have? I stripped down to my skivvies, climbed that darn fence.... And whoa, it seemed like I was 30 feet above the water. One... two... I was in the water by three. It was very dark, a little cold, but terrific. So we kept jumping. 

Eventually we repaired to his kitchen in bathrobes, trying to warm up. Out came a bottle of limoncello, and the conversation flowed on until I finally crawled up to bed at 4:30.

When I left the house - with a nasty hangover - for the airport four hours later, only one other guy was up. I was sorry that I never had a chance to say goodbye, especially to the man who brought us all together. I still wasn't completely sure who he was down deep - just like I couldn't be sure exactly what made some presidents tick - but I did know this: George Clooney is a classy guy and one of the world's best hosts. No wonder his friends return year after year.

There was also this paragraph about how Clooney loves the leftish political films frrom 1964 to 1976:

"In general, I fell in love with that kind of filmmaking. That era was a reflection of the antiwar movement, of the civil rights movement, the women's rights movement, the sexual revolution, the drug counterculture. All those things were exploding at the same time. And these films were reflections of it. They weren't leading the way; films never lead the way 'cause it takes too long to make them... But it's interesting because they show a period of time. I think we're in an interesting period in our country's history right now. We're very polarized... it's frustrating."

Inside the magazine, Gergen made sure to play up how Clooney has put his own rich neck on the line for human rights in the Sudan:

GERGEN: You've traveled a number of times to Africa, especially to Sudan, drawing attention to conditions there after decades of civil war. You also put a spotlight on the successful referendum earlier this year for South Sudan to become a state independent from Sudan. What prompted you to make this your cause?

CLOONEY: Two million people were killed in the north-south war in Sudan before 2005. I wasn't going to stand on the sidelines and not participate. We [Clooney has traveled with organizations including the International Rescue Committee and the Enough Project] went there four times, got the Newsweek cover ['Saint George,' Feb. 28, 2011]. I set up this satellite system on the border of Abyei, and we've had incredible success in photographing mass atrocities. The idea is, we're just going to keep the pressure on. Turning the lights on doesn't mean anything stops. But it makes it harder, and that's our job.

GERGEN: Going there has been dangerous for you, hasn't it?

CLOONEY: There were times when it was hairy.

GERGEN: Didn't a 12-year-old kid put a gun to your head?

CLOONEY: It was up against my throat. David Pressman [a human rights lawyer, now the director for War Crimes and Atrocities on the National -Security Council] just grabbed the gun barrel and pushed it away, saying, "Don't do that." He treated him like a 12-year-old, and that was that.

GERGEN: You also picked up malaria.

CLOONEY: Yeah, that was on the first trip [which Clooney took with his father in April 2006]. That was a fun flight home. I think they had to hazmat the whole plane.

Clooney also joked about signing up with AARP: "I told them they should do 'The Sexiest Man Still Alive.'" That somehow flunks the self-deprecating test.

Naturally, the campaign buttons Clooney's wearing in this picture are all Democrats, and fairly repetitive: there are, for example, five McGovern buttons, five John Kennedys, two Bobby Kennedys, and three FDRs. No Democrat presidential nominee since McGovern (in 1972) was featured.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis