Another Letter The NY Times Won't Print

One in a continuing series

April 21, 2009

To the Editor,

I hope the Times isn't patting itself too hard on the back for winning a Pulitzer for its "swift and sweeping coverage" of then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer's having employed the services of a prostitute - something that thousands of Americans do every single day. ("Times Wins 5 Pulitzers, for Coverage of War, Scandal, Art and the Campaign ," April 21.) Yes, Spitzer was a hypocrite for having paid for sex while nonetheless having prosecuted escort agencies when he served as Attorney General, but apparently no one at the Times had the journalistic acumen to ask him/herself, in what way did Spitzer's having had paid extramarital sex make him any less fit to be governor of the state? After all, if hypocrisy were a crime, we probably wouldn't have any government officials left! Yet it was because of all the press coverage, in which the Times played a significant part, given to this common simple act that Spitzer was hounded out of office.

If the Times had wanted to do some real investigative reporting, it might have looked into how many prostitutes ply their trade in New York City alone, much less all the other major (and most minor) metropolitan areas of the country, and how many crimes are committed against them - crimes which they cannot report to the police because of the illegal nature of their profession - over the course of, say, a year because they have chosen to rent their bodies for sex rather than for typing up invoices in a secretarial pool, babysitting unruly children or flipping hamburgers. It might have looked into how decriminalization of prostitution would bring those who practice it into the taxation system, the criminal justice system, and would prevent minors from easily being able to work in the field - all major societal benefits. It might have investigated how the prostitution laws are yet another example of improper sectarian religious influence over the supposedly secular legal system. How many fewer cases of sexually transmitted infections would there be annually if prostitutes were licensed, were required to use condoms and were tested for STIs on a regular basis?

It hardly seems a coincidence that the man who prosecuted predatory lending practices by banks, fraud at AIG, bank stock price inflation and the "late trading" mutual fund scandal, and who was reportedly gearing up to have Attorney General Andrew Cuomo look further into Wall Street fraud, was busted just as the Wall Street crimes (which the Times has so ably covered so far) were just beginning to heat up.

The only prize the Times' coverage of Spitzer is worthy of is Most Disingenuous Gossip.

Mark Kernes


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