Last night as I watched the Stormy Daniels interview on 60 Minutes, I flashed back in time twenty years, to when I was a freshman in college working on Capitol Hill, sorting through all the opinions about whether or not Bill Clinton should be removed from office for lying under oath about his affair with a White House intern. Twenty years ago I didn’t care about the consensual sexual dalliances of a sitting president and twenty years later I care even less about Donald Trump’s sexual activities 12 years before he became president.
That makes me something rare in public life — consistent.
It’s amazing to me how many people wanted Clinton gone for what he did and now want Trump to stay in office and it’s simultaneously amazing to me how many people defended Clinton to the ends of the earth and now want Trump gone. The truth of the matter is this, most people aren’t logical, they defend the choices made by people they voted for and attack the choices made by people they didn’t vote for.
But my opinions on Clinton and Trump have remained the same. But as I sat and watched the interview and thought about it, I recognized my opinion on one guy was different — Tiger Woods. We’ll get to that in a minute, but first I don’t understand how CBS News can justify treating Stormy Daniels as a legitimate news story. We’re talking about a porn star who, according to her own story, slept with a married man and then accepted money to keep quiet about the dalliance. Before, you guessed it, keeping the money and still telling her story anyway. It’s almost like Stormy is just in it for the money.
Please stop with your, “I don’t care about the sex, I care about the FEC violations,” talk about Trump, it’s the same as the people back in the day who said about Clinton, “I don’t care about the sex, it’s the lying under oath about it.” Nope, that’s not true, you care about the sex. (But you only care about the sex if it’s the political party you don’t support). We’ve set a clear precedent here and that clear precedent is this, even if you stick a cigar in a White House intern’s vagina and then lie about it under oath you can’t be removed from office. (That’s even if you also get a blow job and ejaculate on her blue dress and she keeps your sperm on the dress to prove it actually happened. Seriously, what the hell, the 1990’s were wild, man.) So I don’t know how what Donald Trump did 12 years ago is going to somehow get him removed from office today. Just stop with that suggestion right now.
That’s especially the case when we elected Bill Clinton and Donald Trump to the presidency despite knowing that they’d cheated on their wives. So how is it news when we find out that they’ve cheated on their wives? Also, how come the people ripping Donald Trump for cheating on his wife aren’t ripping Stormy Daniels just as much? She knew he was married and slept with him anyway, aren’t that equally at fault here? Given, you know, that we’re all about equality. How come only Trump is getting ripped for his behavior here?
Regardless, this story isn’t about morality or justice, it’s about humiliating both men that many found personally distasteful. And, yes, religious conservatives supported Trump and feminists supported Clinton. That’s not because either group thinks these men are perfect, it’s because both men advocate for the causes these two groups held dear. Politics has always made for strange bedfellows. (In the case of Clinton and Trump this is literally true.) If you keep abortion legal, you can bang interns in the oval office, and if you put a Supreme Court justice on the court that conservatives approve of, you can bang porn stars.
All this proves is that most people, when it comes to politics, are total hypocrites.
But, if you study history, you learn that’s always been true. Personal foibles and failings have always been connected to the White House — from Thomas Jefferson having a child with his slave, to Grover Cleveland siring a bastard and still getting elected president, to Dwight Eisenhower having a mistress during World War II, to FDR dying alongside his mistress, while being married to a lesbian, to John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Baines Johnson having affairs with anyone who walked. (LBJ’s wife walked in to the Oval Office where she found her husband banging his secretary.)
Hell, Warren Harding, he put the Hard in Harding, even had sex in an Oval Office closet and sired a child with his mistress while he was in office.
Nothing is ever new in politics if you study history.
All of this is to say, I don’t think it makes sense to dive into the personal lives of presidents. If you think they’re doing a bad job in office, beat them when they run for reelection. Otherwise, you lost the election, stop trying to change the result by using consensual sex as a weapon.
But as I thought about the Stormy Daniels revelation, coming directly on the heels of the Duke-Kansas game as it did, I couldn’t help but think of the connection between Bill Clinton, Donald Trump and a sports figure, Tiger Woods. And I also couldn’t help thinking this, did we all, myself included, unfairly treat Tiger Woods’s personal failings as a major news story?
I think we did.
If I don’t think Clinton or Trump’s consensual sex lives are worthy of major news coverage, how in the world was Tiger Woods’s sex life a top sports story? I mean, sure, it was ridiculous and funny — he really banged a Perkins waitress in the parking lot?! — but was it legitimate news that a pro athlete cheated on his wife? It might be bigger news, honestly, if a pro athlete hadn’t cheated on his wife.
Now that we’re nearly a decade past Tiger Woods’s life unraveling and him being on the front page of the New York tabloids for 21 straight days — 9/11 got only 20 straight days — it’s also fascinating that we’ve never seen any other athlete’s private sex life go public like this. That suggests many in the media agree with me, that Tiger’s private sex life wasn’t actually news.
So how could we justify it happening to Tiger? Was it because the police were called after he wrecked his vehicle when his wife found out and Tiger lied about the initial reason for the police response? I suppose that’s one justification. But did it really validate all the media coverage once his marriage ended? Tiger was neither the first nor the last pro athlete to lose his marriage because of sexual infidelity. Was it just that Tiger was so damn awkward in his response to his private life going public? Perhaps this played into it as well.
At the time I recall personally believing that it was the hypocrisy of Tiger’s public image as compared to his private life that made the story valid, but is that really justification either? I don’t think so. Tiger didn’t commit any crimes, he just lost his marriage because he wasn’t able to resist other women.
The more I thought about Tiger as compared to Bill Clinton and Donald Trump, the more I realized that I, and many others in sports media, treated Tiger unfairly. If I believe Clinton and Trump’s consensual sex life is their own business and not ours, even if they are president, shouldn’t I also believe the same thing about Tiger Woods, especially since he’s just a golfer?
I think the answer’s yes.
So nearly ten years after the fact, it probably won’t matter to Tiger Woods at all, but I still think it’s important to acknowledge that the sports media got it wrong when it came to how we covered Tiger Woods’s private life. And so, to be honest, did many of you reading this article right now. Just because something rates highly, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s news. Back in 1998 I recall many people debating whether Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky was news; I hear far fewer people making that argument today about Donald Trump and Stormy Johnson.
And I heard virtually no one making that argument about Tiger Woods.
I suspect that’s why so many of us are rooting for Tiger to win the Masters again next week. Because deep down we all know that Tiger, even if he’s far from perfect like all of us, has been treated unfairly in the media and in public life for much of the past decade. And that all of us, at least in our heads, hold a rough scale of justice that we try to balance. And, at least to most of us, Tiger’s punishment has far exceeded his crimes.
Sure, Tiger wasn’t a perfect husband, but he was damn near a perfect golfer. Why did we ever need to mix the two into a single story and ruin the golfing perfection just to prove Tiger wasn’t perfect in other parts of his life?
Put simply, we didn’t.
Just like Clinton and just like Trump, Tiger deserved the right to a private life, even if he was a public figure.
We got it wrong on Tiger.
And we’re still getting it wrong on Trump and Clinton too.