Parade magazine, the nationally distributed Sunday newspaper supplement, offers an interview with disgraced former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer (aka, Client Number 9), whose new CNN talk show starts Monday night. The questioner is CNN senior political analyst David Gergen. Isn't this a bit too cozy, even as Parade acknowledged their CNN connection? When asked about his high-priced prostitute scandal, Spitzer pushed back:
GERGEN: Critics have argued that your selection is bad for TV news, that it rewards vice over virtue. [Bingo.]
SPITZER: There are precious few who are pure. I say that not to in any way justify myself or diminish my sense of remorse but rather to say 'Okay, I have acknowledged by lapses. If you think I can still offer something, I'll be happy to try.'
Worse yet, Gergen ended the interview comparing Spitzer to Martin Luther King Jr. (who cheated on his wife as well):
GERGEN: Martin Luther King biographer Taylor Branch once told me that King took great chances in his public life because he wanted to atone for the inner issues he was struggling with.
SPITZER: That's interesting -- he felt compelled to push hard in order to seek the redemption he believed was necessary. That's the great tension: we are better at understanding morality than we are at living it.
When Gergen asked if Spitzer considers himself a journalist now, Spitzer replied: "Over the last 20 years, the integrity of journalism as reporting has been lost." (Like he knows a lot about integrity.) "What we now have is journalistic advocacy, which has diminished the quality of news. I will be a commentator who will try very hard to present fact as fact; opinion will be clearly denoted as opinion."
UPDATE: David Gergen responded to this blog post on Twitter (and TwitLonger):
Some have said that in my conversation with Eliot Spitzer, I was comparing him to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That was most assuredly NOT the case, and if I left a different impression, that was not my intent.
In my courses on leadership, I often point out to students that many of us are flawed but even so, one can still make great contributions to mankind, as Dr. King did. With Mr. Spitzer, I was simply observing -- perhaps inartfully -- that whatever the past, he could follow the path of Dr. King and seek to advance
the common good.