When Republican Rep. Mark Foley was caught chasing congressional pages, he got exactly what was coming to him. In a blizzard of coverage (1,400 stories, according to Google news), Mr. Foley’s creepy behavior was examined from every possible angle. Nobody wanted to hear that the congressman’s stupid and objectionable behavior was confined to e-mails and text messages. His immediate resignation didn’t quiet the furor. When two years of investigations found no crime, the results got barely a peep.
Whether the press feeding frenzy around Mr. Foley’s disgrace was justified or not, the explosion of coverage was certainly understandable, even predictable. That reality is what makes coverage of Kevin Jennings, President Obama’s “safe school czar” something of a mystery.
Mr. Jennings brings all the sleaze of Mr. Foley. Sex and the underaged? Check. An older man? Check. Potential misbehavior by a government official? Check.
And the Jennings case brings a lot more: A “safe schools czar” who failed to report a statutory rape? An education leader who encouraged a 15-year-old student to be comfortable with sexual abuse? A federal official who ignored a law requiring him to report even the possibility of a crime?
And it is not just sex, there’s a political angle, too. Since taking office, the Obama administration has been hammered by repeated breakdowns in its vetting process. Appointees who don’t pay taxes. An appointee who signed on to accusations that the previous administration was complicit in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. And now an appointee who thinks sex between an adult and a 15-year-old is no big deal.
All those facts aside, from the media’s perspective, the stories aren’t even remotely similar. Mr. Jennings hasn’t been hit with 1,400 stories or 140 or even 14. With the exception of Fox News, which discovered new audio-taped evidence in the case, Mr. Jennings’ story has been ignored.
So far, the Obama administration and Mr. Jennings himself have refused to answer any questions. That’s not so tough when most of the press isn’t even bothering to ask them. If this were a Republican administration, the press furor would be deafening.