THE CELEBRITY WEBSITE Gawker has this afternoon defended its decision to publish a revelation in which the author claims to have had one-night stand with a controversial Republican senatorial candidate.
The website – which has always arguably prioritised building web traffic and revenue over journalistic ethics – seemed to have gone a little too far this week when it posted a salacious story about the Tea Party favourite Christine O’Donnell.
As O’Donnell rallies before Tuesday’s midterm election polling, she can reflect on a remarkable campaign, punctuated with embarrassing revelations.
Notoriously, O’Donnell was forced to issue a TV ad that opens: “I am not a witch …” after it was revealed she had dabbled in witchcraft.
She also campaigned against masturbation some years ago.
But Gawker’s assertion that she had spent a drink-fuelled night with an unnamed man three years ago – couched in the most ungallant of details – won her support from both right and left yesterday.
The New York Times’ David Carr wrote:
[I]t was just one more step down the road to clickable perdition. Except even as she was being fed into the digital wood chipper, various other parties on the Web began to step back and wonder why a pretty average night between seemingly normal people was being pathologized.
The Atlantic adds:
Editorial questions arise over whether the man who writes about her lying naked in his bed should be able to claim anonymity.
Today though the website hit back at the storm of criticism with a new post on the website. It reads:
What’s missing from most of the criticism is this essential bit of context: Christine O’Donnell is seeking federal office based in part on her self-generated, and carefully tended, image as a sexually chaste woman.
She lies about who she is; she tells that lie in service of an attempt to impose her private sexual values on her fellow citizens; and she’s running for Senate.
We thought information documenting that lie—that O’Donnell does not live a chaste life as she defines the word, and in fact hops into bed, naked and drunk, with men that she’s just met—was of interest to our readers.
Whoever wins this argument, Gawker has already processed over 200,000 clicks on the initial story.
The results for O’Donnell may be clearer on Tuesday.