By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Gawker’s slimy hit on Christine O’Donnell

Christine O'Donnell

I will not link, though you’ll have no trouble finding it if you’re interested. But I want to join those who are calling out the gossip site Gawker for an item that was slimy even by its own consistently low standards.

On Thursday, Gawker posted a piece by an anonymous contributor who claimed to have had a one-night stand with Tea Party favorite Christine O’Donnell three years ago. There was no actual sex in his telling, but the details are pretty embarrassing. Two problems: (1) we have no idea if it’s true; and, more important, (2) whether true or not, it’s nobody’s damn business.

Yahoo! media columnist Michael Calderone has a great round-up of outraged reaction to the piece, along with Gawker editor Remy Stern’s pathetic defense.

O’Donnell, the longshot Republican Senate candidate in Delaware, is absolutely fair game for her public utterances, including her deservedly mocked statements about dabbling in witchcraft. But what Gawker did on Thursday was beneath contempt.

The sad irony is that this will contribute to public loathing of the media, even though Gawker’s relationship to journalism is approximately the same as that of the WWE to sports.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

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  1. Paul Bass


  2. BP Myers

    Have to disagree. In terms if its truthfulness, he provided photographs of the evening in question along with lots of details that can be easily verified. I suspect his (and his roommates) identity have already been outed in some far-flung corner of the Internet. I believe every word.

    And it was she who has made sex her public platform for decades. Any insight into her own bizarre sexual practices (born-again virgin?) are fair game as far as I’m concerned.

    If she has a problem with it, she should put her lady panties on.

  3. Ron Newman

    If someone had posted this on his LiveJournal or Blogspot instead of on Gawker, would it make a difference?

  4. Matt Kelly

    I’m sure that those tired, reflexive ‘I hate the media’ people don’t even know what Gawker is, much less know what it’s done. This doesn’t impugn the media’s reputation one bit– whether that’s a good thing, I don’t know, but to my thinking it’s true.

    And as BP says, if O’Donnell wants to make sexual morality part of her political platform– which she did– then she should be prepared for people to step forward and demonstrate her hypocrisy on the issue. I have no sympathy for her.

    But she does look cute in that costume, I’ll give her that.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Matt: The fact that they haven’t heard of Gawker only adds to my argument. They’ll hear that “The Media” did something vile, and leave it at that. Remember, not a single news organization ever reported the whack-job rumors that Trig really isn’t Sarah Palin’s son. The closest it got to the mainstream was via Andrew Sullivan’s blog. Yet Palin herself falsely claimed that the media had spread those rumors, and her fans believe it.

  5. Christian Avard

    OK, devil’s advocate ….

    *** O’Donnell, the longshot Republican Senate candidate in Delaware, is absolutely fair game for her public utterances, ***

    Right … and she’s said on the record that’s she a virgin (among other things). She made this comment in public, don’t we hold all public officials to their words? How is this any different? From a journalistic POV, I can understand that. Do we need to know? Not really. But then again, she’s running for public office and she’s made morals and sexual morality a part of her campaign.

    But…. big but here …..

    Gawker has not confirmed any of this, just like you said Dan. So with that being said, it shouldn’t have come out yet. Gossip sites, like Gawker, do denigrate journalism.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Christian: Let’s pretend, for a moment, that there was a reason to run the Gawker story. The guy who wrote it says O’Donnell told him she was a virgin, and nothing happens in the course of his little screed to change that.

  6. B.A. DuBois

    Dan, enjoy reading your blog and don’t often agree with you, but you nailed this one right… ugh… story just makes one’s skin crawl… and “The Smoking Gun” now says there’s evidence the source for this story was paid…. ick again.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @B.A.: I’m sure he was paid. It was a freelance piece. And the Gawker network has never made any secret out of the fact that it pays sources.

  7. BP Myers

    @Dan Kennedy said: The guy who wrote it says O’Donnell told him she was a virgin.

    No. She didn’t.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @BP? Uh, yes. She did. The Gawker guy writes that he only later learned she meant something else. That’s his interpretation. O’Donnell might disagree.

  8. L.K. Collins

    Viscous irresponsibility doesn’t have a party label.

    Glad that what bills itself as responsible the responsibile journalist has recognized that there is a line and it can be crossed.

  9. BP Myers

    @Dan Kennedy says: Uh, yes. She did.

    The article I read said she called herself a “born-again virgin,” which I understand is someone who has lost their virginity, regrets it, and recommits(?) to their already lost virginity.

    Setting aside this is another example of the right-wing changing the meaning of words to suit their own purposes, according to her own admission, she is anything but a virgin, in the universally accepted definition of the word.

  10. Steve Stein

    I must admit, I’ve never read Gawker and I won’t start now. But is Gawker held in higher esteem than, say, the National Enquirer or other supermarket gossip rag?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: Held in higher esteem? No. Read by the sorts of people who would never pick up an Enquirer? Yes.

  11. Ron Newman

    I think of it as on the same level as The Daily Beast, several cuts below Salon, Slate, and Huffington Post.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Ron: I’m curious. Why do you hold the Daily Beast in such low esteem? I think it’s pretty good, with more adult supervision than the Huffington Post. I also think Gawker ranks well below any of your four.

  12. Ron Newman

    Daily Beast’s totally spurious reports on “the most dangerous US college campuses” really turned me off. Tufts University? Emerson College? I don’t trust their research skills at all.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Ron: During Katrina, the Huffington Post reported that people had resorted to cannibalism.

  13. Steve Stein

    Blue Texan floats an interesting theory:

    I think it’s obvious that O’Donnell herself planted this piece, in a desperate attempt to salvage her campaign. Conservatives get to fan the flames of the “media is out to get the Tea Party” meme and O’Donnell gets to play the “victim” of a “left-wing smear.”

    Can anyone prove or disprove this? The Gawker source was anonymous, but are there editors over there?

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Steve: Do we really need to unleash the fact-checking team because of the fevered imagination of someone who calls himself Blue Texan?

  14. Christian Avard

    I see where you’re coming from Dan. But, as my favorite Helen Thomas once said, don’t be a candidate for public office if you don’t want be under public scrutiny, good or bad, and this Gawker piece is part of the latter. If she’s a candidate for public office then she shouldn’t be making comments that are supposed to be held private. Once she makes them in the print, TV, or wherever, it’s now in the public domain. She needs to realize she’s going to be taken to task by the good and bad media for what she says when it’s newsworthy or not.

    I personally don’t want to know about her sex life. But she (along with Gawker’s help) is making it newsworthy because she is making sexual morals & the sanctity of sex a part of her candidacy/political platform and Gawker is showing her to be a hypocrite. Any other journalistic outlet could’ve done that too. It just happen to be a garbage gossip site. Should this aspect of O’Donnell’s life be covered? Is a sense, yes, because she used this supposed “moral sexual issue” to get out the Tea Party vote and win the GOP primary.

    But all that aside …. apparently the “one-night stand” has not been confirmed and the story was also paid for. So that should take precedence above all else. If this was confirmed, then maybe what I said might be relevant to the discussion.

  15. Peter Sullivan

    Dan, so as of reading this post this morning. I hadn’t heard of this story, and had never seen I of course read the piece, and even looked at a few of the photos of her in the ladybug costume. The idiot that is writing the story points out that they never had sex and that she stated that she was a virgin and wanted to stay that way. You obviously didn’t point out either of these points, and report that Gawker posted a piece about some guy having a one night stand with Christine O’Donnell. Feigning your indignation of these trash sites and refusing to link to the article, and stating that it nobody’s Damn business aside, you are essentially forwarding this story on your site, to continue your liberal assault of Tea Party Candidates. I realize the liberal bobble heads and Obama jock sniffers that follow Media Nation aren’t going to point it out, but you are just as guilty as Gawker in this effort. By the way, a quick search on gawker for “obama” brings up a number of sensational stories that I haven’t read about On Media Nation.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Peter: You’re wrong. I wrote, “There was no actual sex in his telling.” As for the virgin part, others have pointed out that she was lying, although I couldn’t care less. Finally, yes, Gawker stories are highly dependent on Media Nation — otherwise no one would ever know about them. I think this chart explains it well.

  16. I wrote on my fb account:

    “Wow, so Christine O’Donnell gets a little crazy and, basically, acts like a guy, and everyone is in a tizzy? Come on. Switch her name to Chris O’Donnell, male candidate for U.S. Senate, and this wouldn’t even been on a crappy blog. This is getting ridiculous.”

  17. L.K. Collins

    Whatcha doin’, Tony, calling Dan’s offering a crappy blog?

    He’s felt it important enough to post it here under the gise of cleansing the media from culpability.

    I happen to agree with his position, but I also agree with Peter Sullivan that it appears that it is convenient for Dan to do so in terms of his further trumpeting his disdain for those not agreeing with him politically.

    Perhaps Dan would address the subject of his passing on a salacious, and unconfirmed, story under the guise of nobility and honor?

  18. BP Myers

    @Tony Schinella said: Switch her name to Chris O’Donnell, male candidate for U.S. Senate, and this wouldn’t even been on a crappy blog.

    Disagree, especially if Chris O’Donnell were a holier-than-thou “family values” candidate whose private life was anything less than holy. Think perhaps we might’ve even heard about it sooner.

    @Dan: Love the chart! Also, didn’t mean to suggest O’Donnell was lying. Actually sorta give her roundabout credit for admitting (after a fashion, provided you spoke the language) that she wasn’t really a virgin.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t at all recall this level of opprobrium being heaped upon the woman responsible for the recent document out of Duke, listing the private sexual habits of many of the athletes there. No surprise that document appeared on another Gawker site, but unlike this incident, no one claimed that might’ve made up, regardless of the “messenger.”

  19. Matt Kelly

    >>The article I read said she called herself a “born-again virgin,” which I understand is someone who has lost their virginity, regrets it, and recommits(?) to their already lost virginity…

    So can I become born-again faithful and tell my dates I’ve never cheated?

  20. Mike Benedict

    @Dan: “Yet Palin herself falsely claimed that the media had spread those rumors, and her fans believe it.” But isn’t it that her fans will believe anything precisely what makes Palin such a mainstream farce? I worry less about those who are willfully ignorant than I do about those who are simply confused and somewhat suggestible, because it’s the latter that decides elections.

    @Tony: Hmmm…Bill Clinton might disagree. And the GOP literally made a federal case out of it (a move that is STILL costing them, I might add).

  21. @L.K. Collins: Nope, I’m agreeing with Dan, this is a slimy hit and if it were a guy blowing off steam, it would never see the light of day.

    @BP Myers: We’ll agree to disagree. You can be holier than though and still have a few pops to drink. All kinds of people get loaded and make mistakes, even holier than though ones. In fact, I can tell you, speaking from experience as a preacher’s son, spiritual people make all kinds of mistakes. The difference is that they work to correct the “sin” instead of ignoring it. One incident like this, three years ago, shouldn’t sink a holier than though candidate. And, again, if the candidate were male, you wouldn’t be reading about it. No one would say word one about it. Look at the Senate guy in Louisiana who was repeated caught with all kinds of call girls. He’s cruising to re-election. Total double standard.

  22. Neil Sagan

    Dan made this claim on Greater Boston. I’m sure he did his homework before asserting the claim, so let’s see the numbers Dan Kennedy:

    “We do not spend that much money on political advertising in the country. If McDonalds rolls out a new type of Egg McMuffin they’ll spend more than has been spent on all of the political campaigns that we’ve seen this season”

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Neil: I think I was picking on McDonald’s because I was hungry. But here is exactly what I had in mind, from George Will’s column of Oct. 17:

      Total spending, by all parties, campaigns and issue-advocacy groups, concerning every office from county clerks to U.S. senators, may reach a record $4.2 billion in this two-year cycle. That is about what Americans spend in one year on yogurt but less than they spend on candy in two Halloween seasons. Procter & Gamble spent $8.6 billion on advertising in its most recent fiscal year.

  23. Michael Pahre

    @ Dan: You should figure out how to get those site statistics onto a log plot. It’ll make you feel much better.

  24. BP Myers

    @Tony Schinella said: Look at the Senate guy in Louisiana who was repeated caught with all kinds of call girls.

    Appreciate the lecture, Tony, and you’re right. We’ll have to agree to disagree.

    I will point out, however, that with your Senator Vitters reference, you make my point. Makes no difference that he’s “cruising to re-election.” We still had to suffer through all the tawdry details.

    @Matt Kelly said: So can I become born-again faithful and tell my dates I’ve never cheated?

    By jove, he’s got it!

  25. L.K. Collins

    The product list of Proctor & Gamble eating at the ad budget, Dan, is rather lengthy.

    On net sales of $78.9 billion, it would seem that P&G’s ad budget of $8.9 billion was a modest investment for what 80 brands and 500-600 products.

    To think McDonalds would be dropping $4 billion on a single Egg-McMuffin campaign is as absurd as thinking you’ll vote Republican.

    I doubt seriously they’d come anywhere close to $400 million for the campaign you suggest. (10% of your wild figure.)

    Seeing as though in McDonald’s FY2009 reports show Selling, General & Admin Expenses of $7.05 billion (total), your estimate of a single new sandwich’s ad cost seems like just more of your fanciful hyperbole.

    But who knows, you may vote for Bill Hudak, so your $4.2 billion estimate may have a chance of being true.

  26. C.E. Stead

    I would suggest to liberals that every justification they offer for the cheap sexualization of conservative women is also an endorsement of a Hillary Nutcracker.

  27. Neil Sagan

    @Dan Thanks for the details. That makes more sense to me.

    Citizens United defined the bounds of political contributions to include secret (unreported) money. How do we include that money in an estimate with accuracy?

  28. Neil Sagan

    I found it curious that the Gawker story was written by an anonymous author, DouchAnon, who was the roommate of her longtime former boyfriend Vasher.

    He explains their 12-hour party as having occurred as a result of a chance encounter, she knocked on his door and asked the favor of changing in his apartment. Then they all go out. That’d be easy to fact check. Find out how and when she met Vasher.

    The 12 photos have the effect of making everything that’s said in the story seem like it must be true. I tend to doubt DouchAnon took 12 photos of her in costume drinking beers before they all went out. That’s be something she or her girlfriend would ask for. Even if DouchAnon took them, he says after he dropped her off 12 hours later, he didn’t speak with her again until his roommate took up with her. The smart money is on Christine O’Donnell and/or her girlfriend taking the photos and producing them 3 years later.

    The timing of the story points to a motive that goes beyond any motive DouchAnon claims to have. DouchAnon isn’t likely doing it for the money, a few thousand bucks, he has a job at the Phila Fed. He’s not doing it for the notariety or he would have used his name.

    Coons who is up 11 to 24 points, would be a fool to plant the story and beyond that he has a reputation for impeccable ethics.

    O’Donnell however had a scuffle Tuesday with a WDEL conservative talk radio personality Jensen which went so badly, her campaign manager Matt Moran called the station and demanded the video tape, and threatening to crush them with a lawsuit if they didn’t destroy it. I’ve seen the video. Its on Jensen is pressing her to answer the question, what would she have done if she was running New Castle County. She grows impatient with Jensen and snaps her fingers at her thickly-muscled aid. The aid comes over and stand over Jensen. Jensen persists and O’Donnell actually pushes the aid into Jensen to make her point, stop! The Gawker story changed the narrative. No one is talking about about the WDEL moment. O’Donnell on Hannity was asked about the incident. She immediately pivoted to her campaign stump speech and Hannity let her speak without question for four minutes. Her campaign blamed “Coons Goons” for the story. They denied it. She tweeted about a RedState blog post that made the argument the Gawker story would lead to her victory Monday. Well done back on track.

    This is the campaign that accused Mike Castle on gay man love during the primary. He described her as unprincipled and ill-mannered primary day evening. If she can gay-bait and slander him, she can certainly plant a story that would get her sympathy. Its really her stock in trade, poor Christine victim and ts worked for her. She didn’t go to Yale. She didn’t have a trust fund. bla bla. I’d put down $1000 she did this, even odds.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Neil: Although I find it very hard to believe that O’Donnell would do this to herself, I don’t find it the least bit difficult to believe the essay is a fake from start to finish.

  29. BP Myers

    @Dan Kennedy said: I don’t find it the least bit difficult to believe the essay is a fake from start to finish.

    That this person is the Republican nominee from Delaware to the United States Senate is far less plausible than anything published in the story.

    In terms of “fake from start to finish,” it appears the young man indeed rented an apartment from O’Donnell’s aunt, that his roommate indeed dated O’Donnell for a year, and that they indeed went out on Halloween night. Those facts are apparently indisputable. You’re gonna have to do some more parsing.

    Finally, if you’ve got a link to O’Donnell’s Shermanesque denial that any of it ever happened, I’ll be happy to take a look.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @BP: Given that we don’t know who wrote this, nothing is indisputable.

  30. BP Myers

    @Dan Kennedy said: Given that we don’t know who wrote this, nothing is indisputable.

    The Smoking Gun figured it out in about fifteen minutes:

    • Dan Kennedy

      @BP: Yes. And many of us just knew, damn it, that Al Haig was Deep Throat.

  31. BP Myers

    @Dan: Heh. Thanks for the smile.

    Off to masturbate now . . . while I STILL CAN!

  32. Bob Gardner

    1) I’m really disillusioned with Gawker.

    2) It must really have been torture for Dan to see his column wrapped around the the adult advertising section of the Phoenix.

    • Dan Kennedy

      @Bob: (1) What has Gawker done or not done in the past that leaves you disillusioned now? (2) If you’re trying to draw a comparison to O’Donnell’s privacy being violated and free people making free choices, good luck with that.

  33. Bob Gardner

    @ Dan,
    1) you prove my point. There is nothing that Gawker has done or not done that gives me any expectation. So you found something slimy on the internet.

    2) If someone has a sexual (or quasi-sexual) encounter and the other party chooses to talk about it, have they violated anyone’s privacy? Maybe. But I agree with your original post. Such behaviour is slimy, like the slimy adult advertising section in the the Phoenix, which is distributed free all around the metropolitan area in boxes where any fourth grader can pick up a copy. You can tell yourself that it slimy in a life-affirming, first amendment kind of way but you can’t say that it’s not slimy. So as far as the Church Lady act is concerned, good luck with that.

  34. Re: “fact checking team”…what lucky bastard gets to boast “The Bush Beat” on his business card?

  35. Shawna Murray

    With all this fluffery goin on
    (, it’s hard to
    remember that we are in 2, er 3, umm 4-5
    different wars right now…

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