DOG TRAINER PORNOGRAPHY AND KEN STARR: In a post below, I offer a complete fisking of John Carroll’s failed defense of the Arnold hit piece. In this post, I want to focus on a particular comment Carroll made that really astounded me. After unsuccessfully responding to various strawman arguments against the Arnold hit piece, Carroll compared the coverage of this story by the internet and other electronic media to “pornography”:
The electronic revolution has brought us many blessings, but it has also blindsided us with a tidal wave of pornography. In similar fashion, we are now getting a faceful of rotten journalism — journalistic pornography, actually — in which ratings are everything and truth is nothing.
It is richly ironic that Carroll used the word “pornography” to describe the coverage of the Arnold groping story by other news outlets. You might remember that the Arnold hit piece published by Carroll’s own Los Angeles Dog Trainer felt it necessary to include the following alleged quote from Arnold:
“Have you ever had a man slide his tongue in your [anus]?”
If you have read the stories, you know that this is just one of many explicit descriptions of Arnold’s alleged groping and off-color comments. Just who is the “pornographer” here, Mr. Carroll?
Naturally, Carroll defends this level of detail, saying that the story is “certain to strike you as vulgar, perhaps even obscene. My wife informed me that I’d strayed far over the line in publishing one of the anecdotes. But such is the behavior at the heart of the issue.” In other words, according to Carroll, the Dog Trainer had to print the sexually explicit details because they were critical to the story.
Does this defense sound familiar? It should, because it’s similar to the explanation Ken Starr gave for including sexually explicit details about President Clinton in the Starr Report:
Many of the details reveal highly personal information; many are sexually explicit. This is unfortunate, but it is essential. The President’s defense to many of the allegations is based on a close parsing of the definitions that were used to describe his conduct. We have, after careful review, identified no manner of providing the information that reveals the falsity of the President’s statements other than to describe his conduct with precision.
And what did the Dog Trainer think of Starr’s defense then? As quoted here, the Dog Trainer said of the Starr Report:
Its goal is almost too transparent: not only to lay out the relevant facts in a legal dispute but to present reams of unsavory detail that will embarrass Clinton and undermine his public support . . . .
Of course, unlike the Dog Trainer, Starr’s stated purpose for disclosing sexually explicit detail was not to publicly disclose alleged sexual misconduct by a politician. The sexually explicit detail was necessary to corroborate allegations of criminal activity by the President of the United States. As the above quotation shows, presenting this detail to the House was the only way to get job done.
Moreover, although Starr was constantly accused of publicizing unnecessary details, people forget that Starr urged the House to keep the details confidential. In a letter to Reps. Gingrich and Gephardt accompanying the report, quoted here, Starr said:
The contents of the referral may not be publicly disclosed unless and until authorized by the House of Representatives. Many of the supporting materials contain information of a personal nature that I respectfully urge the House to treat as confidential.
Even if you believe that Starr knew the House would disregard his request to keep the material confidential, Starr did everything he could to keep the material confidential, short of failing to include it at all. But, as John Carroll said about the details in the Arnold story, “such is the behavior at the heart of the issue.”
Dog Trainer editors have finally seen the light: if sexually explicit details are critical to an understanding of sexual harassment by a politician, those details must be included — even if people may be offended. It looks like the Dog Trainer owes Ken Starr an apology. I didn’t see the apology in this morning’s editorials, but I’m sure it’s coming soon.