Friday, October 30, 2009

"THERE'S A SEX TAPE!!!!!" and Other Absurd Aspects of Bader's "Scoop"

Newspapers covering the Jerry Bader suspension have an odd dilemma on their hands: they obviously don't want to repeat the rumor that Bader broke on the radio, yet at the same time the original "scoop" is a rather significant detail of the story. I don't begrudge editors erring on the side of caution in this case, but I do think it's important to examine just what Bader reported. To understand why, just look at some of the reader comments in the GB PG article -- some of these poor folks have absolutely no idea what was said and are talking about FCC restrictions and other things that are utterly not part of the story.

So sometimes not explaining a story adequately just creates further confusion -- who knew?

I don't think there's anything wrong with repeating the accusations Bader originally made. Not doing so seems to accomplish little more than whitewashing the incident. We all know now that the story was completely false on an utterly absurd level, so repeating what was said shouldn't reflect poorly on Lawton.

But it should reflect poorly on Bader.

So in that spirit, let's take a closer look at just what Bader said on the air, becaus it really was quite shocking and extraordinary. This is the text of the radio report he said on the air, not his blog post (which has since been deleted):
Good afternoon, this is Jerry Bader with a "Bonus Listen." This is a follow up to a story breaking in Wisconsin today, Lieutenant governor Barabra Lawton announcing that she will not be a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Governor: This bombshell dropped about 11:00 this morning. She said for very personal reasons.

I've been working the phones all day Here's what I can tell you: I am reporting this factually.
We talked about this yesterday, but right here Bader is taking off his "commentator" hat and putting on his "reporter" chapeau in no uncertain terms.
It has been a somewhat open secret in Madison for years that Barbara Lawton has an open marriage ...
Accusation 1.) The Lt. Gov. is a swinger.

Let's not pull any punches here. That's what Bader was saying. This sends one's imagination to a number of, well, evocative places (hey, we've seen The Ice Storm -- which sucked, by the way). There's a lurid hint of kink to this accusation beyond the broader notion that the accused has no respect for an institution that most people feel quite strongly about.

And it only gets better!
...and that those relationships she has within the marriage are with other women.
Accusation 2.) The Lt. Gov. is a lesbian swinger.

Cue the gay panic!

One of the things that Bader's "report" does an exceptional job of accomplishing is enhancing Lawton's "otherness" with every detail and arranging them such that each new element is more astonishing than the one before it. Give the guy some credit: it's great story-telling and magnificent communications work -- it's just entirely false.
This has not been a tightly kept secret, it has been known more than in her inner circle.
There's something between the suggestion that Lawton flaunts a disregard for conventional mores and institutions and the insinuation of exhibitionism going on here, but I can't put my finger on it. "Secret" usually connotes a sense of shame ... "open secrets" are weird concepts that deserve far more discussion than should be allowed here. Make of this what you will.
I have learned that somebody was about to expose at least one of those relationships. What I am told from sources is a scorned lover ...
Accusation 3.) "Scorned lover" is essentially a euphemism for "dates crazy people."

It also reinforces the polyamory angle of this whole twisted tale.
... and the phrase that I heard is "attached to the building," in their words, a member of the Doyle administration or a staffer of the Doyle administration, a woman, had a relationship with Lawton, she is scorned, and she was going to expose that relationship.
Accusation 4.) Professional Misconduct

Here Bader moves Lawton's "affair" out of the bedroom and into her elected Office. "Attached to the building" could mean just about anything. It could be a Doyle staffer or admin member ... it could be a legislative staffer or a lobbyist or a even a journalist, but Bader makes the leap that the phrase connotes professional misconduct.

And now for the denouement:
I have been told that she had visual evidence of that relationship.
Accusation 5.) THERE'S A SEX TAPE!!!!

"Visual evidence" -- what else could that mean?

This, incidentally, is the most ridiculous part of Bader's yarn. If there was "visual evidence," why was there no attempt to locate it? This would appear to be the linchpin of the entire story. If Bader could have gotten a hold of said "evidence" then he would have the scoop of the century. If he couldn't track it down, then that's a pretty good indication that he's on a wild goose chase.
Again, this comes from a number of sources in Madison and I am reporting factually that it is a lover scorned.

Again, I am reporting factually that these are the reasons that Barbara Lawton is not running for Governor, that she has had a gay relationship with a woman who is described as attached to the building that would mean a staffer.

Obviously this would raise sexual harassment issues.
Accusation 6.) Sexual Harassment and Abuse of power

And here we have arrived at the crux of the story! What started out as a juicy personal story is now a story about abuses of power and public trust.
Again, this coming at 11:00 this morning -- shocking both sides of the political aisle Barbara Lawton's announcement, nobody saw it coming, she described it as for very personal reasons. Again this comes from multiple sources in Madison. More to come on the show and throughout the day on FaceBook and Twitter and at
Again, absolutely none of this turned out to be true.

Just look at the whole package above -- anyone one of these accusations would be enough to send a reasonable person through the roof. Bader wrapped all of them up into one absurd package and delivered it to his listeners. Bader may as well have claimed -- excuse me, "reported factually" -- that Lawton was abducted by aliens, fitted with a mind-control chip in her brain, and is doing the bidding extraterrestrials.

If something like this happened in a print publication everyone from the reporter to the editors would be fired instantly.

The two week suspension doesn't exactly come as much of a surprise. It's WTAQ's way of saying "He can stay if this thing blows over after two weeks." You don't get your credibility back after such an enormous fuck-up and there's no shortage of talent trying to break in to the radio business, so WTAQ is going to have to weigh just how damaged Bader's brand is with its ability to cultivate a replacement quickly.

Just to look at things from his perspective, Bader's in an almost impossible situation here. He could essentially rectify this whole situation by hanging his "sources" out to dry and naming them publically, but doing so would ensure that no one ever speaks to him again. It's an unenviable Catch-22 to be trapped in. Nevertheless, we're having a hard time sympathizing.

The quicker this thing goes away, the more likely Bader gets back on the air. Depending on what you think the responsible resolution to this mess that Bader and Bader alone brought on himself, adjust your outrage accordingly.


John Foust said...

Your point is important. Even if he blames his prior confidence on having multiple sources, one has to wonder whether all the sources said exactly the same thing, making the same multiple claims.

Stu Levitan said...

Thanks for posting the text of what Bader said. This is stunning.