Guilty


  Obviously, Ryan would be a tough nut to crack, but do not underestimate the Liberal Attack Machine! Five years earlier, Ryan had been divorced from a Hollywood starlet, Jeri Lynn Ryan, the bombshell borg on Star Trek: Voyager. The divorce and custody filings were sealed by a California court in accordance with the wishes of both of the divorcing parties. Originally, Jeri Ryan had opposed sealing the records, stating that the only reason her ex-husband wanted them sealed was to protect his political career. But she later changed her mind when she acquired a stalker. Only then did Superior Court judge Robert Schnider place the records under seal.

  Jack Ryan wanted the records sealed not for his prospective political career, but to protect the privacy of his son, who is autistic. By the time Ryan faced Obama, he had already released years of tax returns to the media. He even released his sealed divorce papers. Just not the custody records pertaining to his son. That wasn't enough for liberals. As one charmingly argued on the Democratic Underground blog, “The son is reported as autistic and would not even be exposed to the scandal unless he were suddenly cured.”11

  In what would become a familiar pattern, Obama announced, “It's going to be up to other people to determine what's appropriate and what's not.” Meanwhile, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) was ferociously e-mailing reporters articles about the controversial divorce. A DSCC official unsubtly told the Chicago Sun-Times, “I don't believe we've engaged in any on-the-record commentary about his divorce files” (emphasis added).12 Obama later piously declared, “I can say unequivocally that this is not something that we are going to be focused on in our campaign.” But it's an odd coincidence that both of Obama's Senate opponents were knocked out by the unsealing of sealed divorce records, rather as if all his political opponents’ cars had blown up.

  The Democrats didn't need to push hard on the Ryan divorce issue, since a pack of media wolves had soon taken up the chase and were demanding that all of Ryan's divorce records be released. Lawyers for the Chicago Tribune and WLS–Channel 7 flew to Los Angeles to request that the custody papers in the Ryan divorce be unsealed. The Tribune admitted it had no idea what was in the custody records; it sought to unseal them precisely “because it didn't know what was in them.”13 This is rather like entering a home without a warrant and tossing the place because you never know what you might find.

  They didn't have to ask Judge Schnider twice. So with the acquiescence of an unscrupulous judge, the media won the right to peruse the Ryans’ sealed child custody records.

  If any news organization can open sealed court records by asserting the novel legal argument “it might be interesting,” what is the point of sealing the records in the first place? I think it would be interesting to know the names of women who falsely accuse men of rape. It would be interesting to know the race of rape suspects—especially if there has been a string of rapes in my neighborhood and I want to be on the lookout. The gay community might find it interesting to know the names of HIV-positive men in their communities. Most of all, I think it would be interesting to know the occupant, rent, and number of bedrooms in every rent-controlled apartment in Manhattan. In fact, I would be fascinated. But in all these cases, the media engage in ferocious self-censorship in the service of some idiotic liberal cause.

  Protecting the privacy of a Republican for the sake of his child did not fall into that category. Even Judge Schnider, in ordering the records unsealed, admitted that “the nature of publicity generated will become known to the child and have a deleterious effect on the child.”14 But this was no time to worry about a child—there was an attractive Republican Senate candidate to be stopped!

  Amid the 400 pages of filings from the Ryans’ divorce case released by Judge Schnider was a claim by Jeri Ryan, in response to Jack Ryan's claim that she had had an affair, that he had taken her to “sex clubs” in Paris and New York and proposed that they have sex in front of other people. It was the sex clubs, she said, that drove her to fall in love with another man. In a Clintonesque I-didn't-inhale-and-I-didn't-like-it claim, Jeri Ryan described the interior of a “sex club” that she said she didn't enter: “One club I refused to go in. It had mattresses in the cubicles.”15

  Jack Ryan forcefully denied the allegations in his response at the time of the divorce, saying, “I should not have to respond to the ridiculous allegations Jeri Lynn makes in these two paragraphs.” He unequivocally denied that their romantic getaway weekends included “the type of activities she describes.” Rather, he said, “We did go to one avant-garde nightclub in Paris which was more than either one of us felt comfortable with. We left and vowed never to return.” Ryan warned that the filings would become public and complained that his wife apparently “did not consider how [their son] Alex will feel about his parents or himself when he learns of this type of smut”—which is exactly what happened years later when the media unsealed the custody records and broadcast them to the world.

  Manifestly, Ryan had accurately described the effect those allegations would have on a nine-year-old child. There were also plenty of reasons to believe he had accurately described the veracity of his ex-wife's allegations. For starters, a case could be made that it is implausible on its face that Jeri Ryan could have had sex in public in the spring of 1998 without setting the gossip pages on fire. As busy as Jack Ryan must have been with investment banking and raising their son in Chicago while his wife was shooting Star Trek Voyager in Hollywood,16 he had to know that she had attained the level of celebrity that does not allow one to have sex in public.

  In addition to earlier smaller roles in shows like Who's the Boss?, Melrose Place, Matlock, The Sentinel, and Co-Ed Call Girl (she was the head call girl), Jeri Ryan had become a well-recognized sexpot since joining Star Trek: Voyager in 1997. By the spring of 1998, she had been in hundreds of newspapers, dozens of photos, nine issues of Entertainment Weekly (which described her as “a bracing mix of steely sexuality and undiluted aggression wrapped in spandex so tight it'D make ol’ Jim Kirk blush”), two issues of People magazine, and one issue of Newsweek, which purports to be a newsmagazine but also publishes Jonathan Alter. The previous December, TV Guide Entertainment Network had chosen her as TV's “sexiest star.”17 In her spare time, she attended Star Trek conventions around the country.

  Moreover, by her own winsome account, Jeri Ryan seems less offended by the public leering of her coworkers than the public leering of her own husband. In a 2006 interview with FHM magazine, accompanying a photo spread of her posed in underwear, Ryan said:

  It's a good thing that I'm not one of those prissy girls. Within 30 seconds of meeting Jimmy [Woods], he began commenting on “The Girls,” as I refer to my boobs. In fact, The Girls have become a constant topic of conversation on the set…. The Girls are very appreciative…. Every once in a while, The Girls have got to come out and play…. I can't blame a guy: When I talk to a girl like that, I talk to her chest too. I just say, “Oh, nice rack.”

  Even the laddie magazine interviewer moved on from Ryan's fascination with her own breasts, asking her if she ever talked to fellow Boston Public actor William Shatner about Star Trek. Ryan replied, “Not really. He mainly talked about The Girls.”18

  So Jeri Ryan wasn't exactly Princess Grace of Monaco. She posed for men's magazines in her underwear and bored an interviewer with endless prattle about her “boobs,” but her husband takes her to a New York club “with cages, whips and other apparatus hanging from the ceiling” and she needed smelling salts?

  In addition, there's a reason you never hear the expression “As true as claims made by an ex-spouse in divorce papers.” Despite the plot-line of every movie on Lifetime Television, false allegations of domestic abuse in divorce cases are, to put it mildly, not uncommon—especially in two kinds of cases: child-custody disputes and cases involving a lot of money. Indeed, legislatures around the country are constantly trying to find ways to reduce the incidence of false allegations, from punishing the guilty to inducing the parties to settle out o
f court.19

  But punishing false allegations is not the function of divorce court. Long before Obama needed an opponent destroyed in the 2004 Senate race, California's family court—which was responsible for the Ryans’ divorce case—was described in a California newspaper as “a place where discovering the truth and punishing the guilty are not the highest priorities.” One superior court judge said although judges are well aware that people in divorce proceedings “exaggerate or embellish stories,” the family courts simply have no capacity to determine who is telling the truth or to punish liars.20

  Even the Chicago Tribune eventually reported on the unreliability of divorce filings—but only after Jack Ryan had safely been driven out of the race. Legal experts told the Tribune that the worst cases were custody battles like the Ryans’, where “passions run highest.” Divorce attorney James Feldman said, “People are desperate to prevail and are often willing to say almost anything.” Another divorce attorney, Lee Howard, said, “People become so hateful, they lose sight of morality, they lose sight of ethics, they even lose sight of protecting the children they love.” He estimated that there were false allegations in about 80 percent of custody disputes.21

  Even assuming for the sake of argument that the questionable allegations against Jack Ryan in a bitter custody battle involving a lot of money were true, it is the least scandalous scandal I've ever heard of. His alleged ignominious act was wanting to have sex with his wife, albeit under somewhat tawdry circumstances. Ryan wasn't accused of having sex with an intern or a male congressional page—indeed, he wasn't accused of having sex at all. This may be the first sex scandal in history in which there was no sex. Jack Ryan was accused of asking his wife to have sex with him and taking “no” for an answer. If being turned down for sex is a disqualification for public office, how did Henry Waxman get elected?

  Still, the media were aflame with indignation about Ryan. The scandal was covered on Entertainment Tonight—because if there's one thing Hollywood can't tolerate, it's a sex scandal! Although Jeri Ryan had opposed releasing the records to the Chicago Tribune, once they were unsealed, she immediately had her publicist shoot out a press release saying she stood by her racy allegations.

  The sex club allegations also made NBC Nightly News, ABC's Good Morning America, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and NBC's Today Show. International papers were ablaze with the story—the same newspapers that were supposed to be so bored with old-fashioned American sexual mores during the Clinton administration. The Daily Telegraph (London) billboarded, “Republican Took Actress Wife to ‘Kinky Sex Clubs.’ ” Newspapers across Illinois, naturally, were demanding Ryan's scalp.

  It took gutless Republicans about thirty seconds to dump Ryan as their candidate. You'D have thought Ryan had been caught attending Jeremiah Wright's church the way Republicans shunned him. Four days after Judge Schnider unsealed the Ryans’ divorce records, Jack Ryan dropped out of the race.

  Republicans tossed aside a spectacular candidate because of uncorroborated allegations in sealed child-custody records so that Republicans could prove that they weren't just picking on Clinton, who had molested an intern in the Oval Office, was credibly accused of raping Juanita Broaddrick, asked Paula Jones to “kiss it,” and committed a slew of felonies to cover it all up.

  Illinois Republicans used the excuse that Ryan had “lied” when he assured them there was nothing to worry about in his divorce files. A “lie” is one explanation. Another explanation is that Ryan believed that implausible, not particularly scandalous, allegations in divorce files were not, in fact, anything to worry about. In a world of sane people, they wouldn't have been. Did she claim he beat her? Did she claim he molested their child? Did she claim he hired prostitutes? Did she claim he cheated on her? Did she claim he was friends with William Ayers? No, no, no, no, and no. In a he-said-she-said dispute in a nasty custody fight involving a lot of money, Jeri Ryan accused her husband of propositioning her in a nightclub.

  And that's how we got Barack Obama, boys and girls. In the Senate race that gave him a national platform, first his Democratic primary opponent and then his Republican opponent were dispatched by the media's digging up dubious claims from sealed divorce records. Obama's Republican opponent was replaced by Alan Keyes, a man of great integrity with zero aptitude as a political candidate, and— surprise!—Obama won. This was a feat roughly equivalent to my beating Elizabeth Taylor in the hundred-yard dash, then demanding that everyone call me “the world's fastest human.”

  In the few days before Ryan dropped out of the race, Obama nobly proclaimed that voters were more interested in the issues than in Ryan's divorce—though his comments were negated, to some degree, by the plastic “Mr. Spock” ears he was wearing at the time. “And so,” Obama said, “it's just not something that we've emphasized or we're planning to comment on.” It's easy to be magnanimous when the media vanquish your opponents for you.

  Now fast-forward to the summer of 2008, when Sarah Palin appeared out of nowhere and posed the first serious political threat Obama had faced in his life—that is, other than his 2000 campaign for Congress, which he lost. Obama was running for office, so, according to schedule, someone's divorce records would have to be unearthed. This was the third attack on an Obama opponent that involved digging up divorce records. Instead of announcing that he would meet with Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad without preconditions, Obama should have admitted his secret plan: First, we find out if Mahmoud has ever been divorced….

  The divorce records in this case were not Palin's; she was not divorced. Reporters were instead poring through the divorce records of Scott Richter, a former business partner of Palin's husband, for evidence that Sarah Palin had had an affair with him, as alleged in the National Enquirer.22

  As a friend of the Palins, Richter tried to seal the divorce records after Palin was chosen as McCain's running mate, correctly anticipating that reporters would be descending on Alaska looking for dirt on Palin and her associates. (Would that Tony Rezko had been as nervous!) The court denied his request to seal the divorce records and the media pounced on them. Sadly for the press jackals—and Obama—there was no mention of Palin in the Richter divorce records. Not only that, but Richter's ex-wife, Debbie Bitney, told Us Weekly, “I can tell you this with 1,000 percent certainty, Sarah Palin never had an affair.”23

  Poor Obama. No messy allegations from a divorce file would help him this time.

  Moreover, contrary to the Palin “enemy” quoted in the Enquirer, who said that Todd had discovered the affair and ended his relationship with Richter, the divorce records showed the Palins still shared a vacation property with Scott Richter. It turned out Mr. Richter was the wronged spouse—Sarah Palin's only involvement in the affair was to fire the man having an affair with Richter's wife. To his credit, the fired adulterer defended Palin's decision, telling the Wall Street Journal, “I understand why I had to go. I accept that. I was in the governor's office and a trusted adviser. I betrayed that trust by not being forthcoming about what was going on in my personal life.”24 In Alaska, even the sinners are saints.

  In a major profile of Palin, the New York Times's entire summary of this incident was to say that Palin “fired [the man] after learning that he had fallen in love with another longtime friend.” There was absolutely no mention in the Newspaper of Record that this glorious love story stomped on by Ebenezer Palin involved a couple who were both married to other people at the time.25 He fell in love, so the mean governor fired him. There are lies, damn lies, and the New York Times.

  Lying by omission is not the only way the establishment press slanders Republicans. In a form of respectability-laundering, the New York Times has energetically promoted all the left-wing websites that were gustily retailing the demonstrably false Palin affair story. Salon, Gawker, and Pam's House Blend, for example, were all hot on the trail of the Enquirer's (false) story about the Palin affair26—some noting that “in fact the Enquirer is surprisingly good at reporting on these k
inds of stories, and it has a decent track record with them,” as an article in Salon put it.27

  The establishment media treat these liberal websites like their mistresses, lending them credibility on their lunch hour, but claiming not to know them on the holidays when they publish outrageous lies about conservatives. Pam's House Blend, a “news site for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community,” gets about thirty-eight visitors a month, but merited a front-page story in the Times's Sunday Style section.28 The Times has cited liberal website Salon hundreds of times and Gawker more than a hundred times. At least those sites get between 1 and 2 million visitors a week—in part thanks to the Times's incessant flacking. But so does the conservative website FreeRepublic, which has received fewer than two dozen mentions in the Times—all of them identifying FreeRepublic as a conservative website. With more than twice as many visitors as either Salon or Gawker, even the Drudge Report has received only as many mentions as they.

  So while the Old Gray Lady kept its hands clean from the most scurrilous slanders about Sarah Palin, it used the left-wing nut websites as its cutouts to do the dirty work. True, no one can say the Times printed accusations that Palin had had an affair. But websites avidly promoted by the Times did.

  Contrary to the Salon article hailing the renowned accuracy of the National Enquirer, the Enquirer's track record varies depending on whether the target is a liberal or a conservative. The Enquirer has acquired undeserved credibility for its scandal stories on conservatives because its scandal stories on Democrats usually are true—such as Gary Hart's affair with Donna Rice, Clinton's affair with Gennifer Flowers, and John Edwards's affair with Rielle Hunter.

 
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