Yesterday we saw an all too familiar storyline play out: a politician got caught in the kind of ethics scandal that was only going to snowball and destroy her reputation if she didn’t do something drastic, and so sure enough, she immediately announced she was resigning. Yet the reaction we ended up seeing to Nikki Haley’s hasty resignation in disgrace was anything but typical.
The general theme on MSNBC and CNN yesterday was that there was no way anyone could possibly know why Nikki Haley resigned, but that whatever her reason, it was a genius move that no one is smart enough to understand. Even when certain cable news pundits did acknowledge Haley’s ethics scandal, which was the serious kind exposed by widely respected legal watchdog CREW, they still seemed intent on pushing the idea that the scandal may not have been the reason for her resignation. Hmm, okay then.
Of course the other half of yesterday’s big theme was that by resigning in the midst of a worsening scandal, Nikki Haley was brilliantly setting herself up to triumphantly run for president someday. And that gave away what this was really about: if Haley does ever run for president, the specter of a pretend-moderate Republican woman in the race will set up the kind of ratings-friendly narrative that cable news can only dream of. So perhaps it’s not surprising that they didn’t want to call this what it was: a scandalous politician resigning in disgrace.
Even crazy Republican Mark Sanford, best known for his own ratings-friendly scandals, who happens to be old pals with Nikki Haley, flatly admitted that her resignation was anything but on the up-and-up: “Something doesn’t smell right. Something’s weird.” But even this wasn’t enough to convince the media that Haley’s downfall yesterday was in fact a downfall. If nothing else, this serves as a reminder that there are times when the major media outlets are simply not going to let the facts get in the way of their most ratings-friendly narratives. It’s why we have to be vigilant with everything we hear – particularly when we hear it on television.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report