Yahoo picked up a fluff AP article that distorted Democratic NJ Governor Jim McGreevey’s 2004 resignation. It perpetuated the success of what should have been a politician’s attempt to cover allegations of corruption by using his closeted sexuality to distract an incurious and complicit media. This puff piece kept alive McGreevey’s pattern of announcing something socially startling to draw attention away from the incredible graft, scandal and alleged sexual harassment that would have otherwise defined his administration. When threats to McGreevey's reputation arise, he uses his status as a gay man to deflect unwanted attention, and the AP went along with it by reporting this latest “shocker” and omitting his political affiliation while identifying his opponents’ party (emphasis mine throughout):
Jim McGreevey has gone from altar boy to mayor to the nation's first openly gay governor.
From the moment he stood at a podium in 2004 and announced he was a "gay American" who was resigning because of an affair with a male staffer, people wondered what McGreevey's next act would be.
Now we know: He wants to become a preacher and a teacher.
Embroiled in a bitter divorce battle, McGreevey has become an Episcopalian and enrolled in a "discernment" program to help prospective candidates for the priesthood decide if it is their true calling.
And he already has started teaching courses at a New Jersey university on ethics and leadership, which the head of the state's Republican party likened to "Doctor Kevorkian teaching health maintenance."
By choosing feel-good wording like “altar boy” and “preacher and a teacher,” the article employed classic media techniques used to create heroes by inserting upbeat terms-- a man standing tall and strong against the forces of some designated evil. Now, instead of being thought of as a rumored corrupt sexual harasser who cared more about sex than national security, he is a civil rights leader fighting bigots everywhere, except that isn’t what really happened.
This article read like DNC talking points. Even though the article pointedly did not identify McGreevey as a Democrat, it set up the state GOP head to look like NJ Republicans are complaining that a gay man cannot teach an ethics course. In actuality, the conflict lies with what CBSNEWS.com called McGreevey’s “appearance of ethical lapses,” such as hiring a foreign national to a homeland security position, despite a lack of basic experience. McGreevey hired Israeli citizen Golan Cipel to the post, even though not having an adequate security clearance prevented him from attending all of the meetings and briefings for this $110,000 a year post.
Ignoring all of that, the article continued to frame New Jersey’s ire as related solely to his sexuality:
"He needs a lobotomy, not a collar," said Tom Balasia, who was waiting for a haircut in the same barbershop that used to trim McGreevey's locks when he was mayor of Woodbridge. "He's a liar who's hiding behind the cloth. He should be ashamed to show his face."
But Steve Goldstein, the head of Garden State Equality, the state's leading gay rights group, said reaction in the gay community to McGreevey's latest journey has been overwhelmingly positive.
"If I were not a nice Jewish boy studying to be a rabbi, I would embrace Jim McGreevey as my pastor in a New Jersey minute," he said. "I think it will take about one week for a congregation to fall in love with him."
The last little disingenuous parting shot reinforced the idea that the anger over McGreevey teaching ethics classes and joining an Episcopal seminary is related to his status as an out gay man, “The Episcopal Church has been far more welcoming of gays than the Catholic Church, which condemns homosexual conduct but professes love for the individual.”
McGreevey’s sexuality had nothing to do with the criticisms of his job performance. A politician with corruption charges swirling around him shouldn’t be lionized in articles like this and getting a free pass from the media.