Sunday is pandering to the public’s need to know day, apparently, because I am about to update readers on the latest in mistress news. But seriously, there is more motivation to critique the reporting of these events than to merely report these “compelling” mistress happenings.
First up is this eye-catching headliner from gawker.com: “60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft Guzzled Champagne from Mistress’ Ass: Report”. Here the big news is a celebrity newscaster had a three year affair with a Manhattan lawyer for which he was sorry and is quoted as apologizing to his wife with whom he has a kid. Of course, that in itself is not big news. No, to make this story newsworthy, piquing the public’s prurient interests, the gawker publication had to include copies of the illicit couple’s sexting, brought to everyone courtesy of the infamous National Enquirer. Thus the titled headline grabber.
Note that had the cited behaviors or sexting occurred between Kroft and his wife, even the National Enquirer would not have escaped criticism–or worse–as most readers would have been offended with such an outlandish invasion of privacy. But when it comes to affairs and celebrities, all bets are off. I got the distinct impression that the story was way too common place as a mere celebrity with a mistress report, so the piece had to be beefed up with something juicy. Thus the sexts.
In other less than stellar news reporting, the late Sammy Davis Jr.’s avowed ex-mistress became the latest in a long line of accusers, 24 or more, to step up in remembrance of being raped by Bill Cosby in USAToday’s report of a couple of weeks ago.
She describes the surprise attack, which occurred in the early 70s when she went to Cosby’s hotel room with barbecued ribs in hand, as one that left her stunned, particularly since she knew Cosby as a friend to Davis. Her stated reasons for not reporting the attack earlier were the prevailing attitudes about rape 45 years ago, her confusion about a friend rather than stranger in a dark alley rape and the awakening of her long ago repressed memory by the recent revelations of Cosby’s other alleged attacks.
It seems the writers did not pursue the going-to-Cosby’s-hotel-room-alone- bearing-ribs line of questioning. How many will read this article and think she is suspect merely by virtue of her being a professed ex-mistress? I would be surprised if there were no more than a handful.
Cosby himself has been the subject of many articles in the past year, all of them increasingly cognizant of his fall from a pretty high pedestal. Six months ago, the indulgences apparently went to him, the celebrity of notable clean, comic wholesome fun with family values. For example, uk’s dailymail ran an article about him in August of 2014, headlined with Bill Cosby’s dumped mistress and her mom having dinner with him. That is apparently the lead-in lure, but the story is a rather warm-ish more than critical story about Bill Cosby, ending with his heh, heh, heh parting remark on the Jimmy Fallon show that he got “some” from his wife on his 77th birthday and alluding to the trials and tribulations of an aging sexual guy with husbandly duties.
However, prior to that, the article matter of factly outlines the sexual abuse accusations, the long term affair and breakup with the subject mistress, as well as the lawsuit by a former lover claiming she raised his love child, the latter having gone to jail for extortion after she threatened Cosby with going to the tabloids. The most interesting part of the article is this excerpt from Cosby’s wife explaining how they were weathering the storm, discussing a time when the Cosbys had focused on ‘selfish needs’:
‘We were both young. We had to go through a lot. It’s difficult to learn to live with somebody, to be unselfish and to be responsible for your behavior – and even to think how you hurt others if you do certain things.’
‘You go through a transition, if you are committed to each other. You cleanse yourself of all of that baggage, and you look at each other and determine whether the relationship is worth salvaging, whether you really love each other and want to be together.’
‘Then you realize, ‘Wait a minute. I might have been doing this because I just didn’t want to think about how this would affect the other person or to allow myself to love someone with emotional intimacy’.’
She claims, I think, that Cosby’s ‘dalliances’ are the result of avoidance behavior, fear of emotional intimacy with a spouse or denial behaviors. Camille Cosby, a PhD in education, appears to be a very smart woman, and she is standing by her man. After all, what does she gain in vilifying him? She is not running for public office and is probably financially secure. Apparently she knew he was a philanderer, perhaps just not the extent of his behavior. And of course he is innocent until proven guilty though it is tough to overlook so many accusations. Defending her husband of 40 something years, a private and personal duty, surely trumps her civil duty to the female victims. Or does it?
Finally, there is the latest and greatest on an old mistress scandal, this one the most logically troublesome. Former CIA director and General, David Petraeus, is accused of having leaked classified information to his then mistress and biographer, Paula Broadwell, which could lead to felony charges.
The businessinsider article acknowledges that Petraeus’ affair was not so much the big deal (imagine that: a politician with a mistress) as the potential threat of blackmail or leaks, such as those he is accused of having made, that skewered his personal life publicly–clearly an exclusion from the wink wink exemption of the age old good ol’ boys’ mistressing practices.
So four different journals, from gossip to news, cover four different mistress stories from four different subjects: an unknown, two television celebrities and a high-ranking government official. Each is accorded the credibility afforded by society’s attitudes. The unknown mistress gets a salutary news spot in a daily gossip riding on a bashed celebrity’s coattails. The two celebrities get the usual free pass of a double sided nod playing up the public’s interests in illicit affairs of stars with intent to tarnish–or further tarnish–their reputations even while exploiting those celebrity reputations for the hook. That’s because journalists know the public both adores and excoriates celebrities, most likely due to the fame-lust that elicits both adoration and envy of those who have acquired it.
Fame is a shield, almost magical; it makes people turn away in disinterest or in wary suspicion of accusers assumed to be extorting from a monied star. Bill Cosby may still be riding that magic carpet ride: old stories, why didn’t they come forward sooner, paid off, wanting more money or attention, etc. Of course, the jury is not only not still out, it may never assemble. The play in the public sphere for sympathy and the power of fame and money may be the only “justice” on display here. And where there is power, fame, and money, there will be mistresses, adored and abhorred.
But the real power is in the consumers. The public are mostly predictable, sometimes quirky judges. They are a mix of salacious salivators, moralistic finger waggers and jealous girlfriends hooked on fantasy and soaps stories. And when they turn, as quickly as a rising star, public figure, or complete unknown can float the wave of notoriety or popularity, is as deep as they can drown and disappear. Power to the people.