The affair of Virginia State Delegate Joseph Morrissey – the 57-year-old legislator bedding a 17-year-old legal aide – was a juicy story the late Ben Bradlee might have adored. But the Post didn’t put a news story on the front page of the Metro section until last Friday, December 19, five days after they buried it on C-7.
The Friday story by Laura Vozzella and Rachel Weiner seemed to underline why the Democrat-backers at the Post found this salacious tale so boring, what with their fascination with putting former Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell behind bars for a decade or so.
The reporters recalled “McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were convicted of corruption in September for accepting $177,000 in gifts and sweetheart loans from a Richmond businessman. Their trial, which featured a lurid defense premised on marital woes, stained state's cherished good-government reputation.” After that, Morrissey was piffle:
The Morrissey affair seemed like a fleeting sideshow to those weightier scandals when it emerged in the summer. He had been in trouble many times before - he's been jailed for fights and lost his law license for nearly a decade - so it was not a shocker to see him in it again.
But the saga has churned on in ever more salacious and absurd directions, giving it a staying power and a level of attention mortifying to people steeped in the state's proud image of political rectitude.
There were the nude photos and explicit text messages that prosecutors said Morrissey and the girl exchanged - and a claim from the delegate that their phones had been hacked by the girl's spurned lesbian ex-lover. There is the girl's pregnancy, and the prosecutor's claim that the child is "perhaps" Morrissey's. (The delegate isn't saying.)
And most startling of all was the prospect that Morrissey, sentenced to six months in jail but able to leave daily on work release, could show up at the Capitol by day to pass laws - and sleep behind bars at night for breaking them.
"It hurts. It does hurt for people who care about the commonwealth," said House Clerk G. Paul Nardo, speaking not just about Morrissey but also about the other scandals. "I don't think this is 'Schoolhouse Rock.' We didn't have this kind of stuff, at least not when I was watching TV on Saturday mornings."
All of this was roiling while the Post was burying it on the inside pages. On Saturday, The Post ran an unsigned editorial which again contrast Morrissey with the McDonnells:
JUST WHEN you think Virginia politics couldn't sink much lower, with the state's former governor and first lady awaiting sentencing for government corruption, enter Del. Joseph D. Morrissey (D) from Henrico County. His cynical ploy to try to hold onto his legislative seat, despite his conviction for having sex with a 17-year-old who worked in his office, shows disdain for the legislature, for the state and for the voters.
We can only hope that voters put Mr. Morrissey in his place - as far away from the statehouse as possible.
On Tuesday, the Post explained in a promo on Metro's front page that "Democrats pick a nominee to replace disgraced state Del. Joseph Morrissey B6." Disgraced for what? Here came the bland headlines again. "Democrats choose candidate for House: Supporters of disgraced delegate plan to file lawsuit challenging caucus."
There's a mention of "contributing to the delinquency of a minor" in paragraph 3, and then a goofy denial in paragraph 6: "He contends that he is innocent of all charges stemming from his relationship with a 17-year-old receptionist and that he pleaded guilty only to avoid a possible decades-long prison sentence. He and the teenager were framed, he said, by her jealous ex-girlfriend."