Newsweek's cover story this week about Rep. Harold Ford. Jr is illustrated in the Table of Contents by a dramatic black and white picture of Ford glancing heavenward in a church under the headline "Racing to the Center." The Ford cover story by Jonathan Darman, framed by an enormous photo of Ford's head taking up two glorious pages, began with 300 people coming out of the darkness to hear "Ford praise the Lord and lecture man" at a historic hotel, as people sang "Amazing Grace" and shouted Hallelujah. "'I love Jesus, I can't help it,' the congressman tells the crowd." On page 33, there's a half-page photo of Ford bowing his head and joining hands with staff in a prayer before a debate. Nowhere, in this 3,944-word story is any mention of this fervent Christian attending that 2005 Playboy-bunny party in Jacksonville on Super Bowl weekend.
Don't think it's because Newsweek was flat-footed and unaware. In the March 27, 2006 Newsweek, Darman related those nasty Republicans were going negative early:
Earlier this month, the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee unveiled fancyford.com, a Web site that documents Ford's supposedly lavish lifestyle. Drawing from FEC expenditure statements, the site portrays Ford as an international dilettante with a penchant for Armani suits, four-star hotels and day-spa pedicures. In precious fonts and soft pastels, the site tells viewers how to "party like Ford" and displays four buxom Playboy bunnies as a reminder that Ford attended the Playboy Super Bowl party in 2005.It may seem like an odd complaint coming from Republicans, who know a thing or two about posh pads and parties themselves. But RSCC spokesman Dan Ronayne says the site reveals Ford as an out-of-touch elitist, "more D.C. than Tennessee."
It was headlined "Digging for Dirt in Dixie." Above that, the subhead was "One sign of the GOP jitters: Republicans are already going negative on a black candidate running in Tennessee." Under a photo of Ford saluting a crowd, the caption read: "EARLY HARDBALL: Ford plays up his breaks with party leaders".
Rich Noyes points out to me that Ford also drew a large picture in the January 28, 2002 edition of Newsweek, headlined "Losing the Old Labels: Rep. Harold Ford Jr. pays homage to the past. But this rising political star refuses to be boxed in by it." The author was black reporter Lynette Clemetson, now at the New York Times.
There's a reason for all this publicity: Newsweek editor Jon Meacham, who said this week in his "Editor's Desk" article up front: "I grew up in Tennessee, so I confess that I have followed the Ford-Corker race with the enthusiasm of a native." Enthusiasm for Ford, that is.