A lot can be covered in a book exploring a sitting president’s relationship with the media. Speculations about his and his wife’s sex life, however, are not even close to relevant or appropriate.
CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter is publishing a book in which he alleges a dark and corrupt conspiracy between President Trump and Fox News, playing into popular leftist theories about the closeness between the White House and the network. In an excerpt released in Vanity Fair to promote the book, Stelter focused predominantly on Sean Hannity, but one other major player in Trump’s life is briefly touched on: his wife.
“Hannity counseled Trump at all hours of the day; one of his confidants said the president treated Hannity like Melania, a wife in a sexless marriage. Arguably, he treated Hannity better than Melania. Hannity’s producers marveled at his influence and access.”
This is not an offhand reference buried in some midsection with no fanfare. Stelter was proud enough of this statement to include it in the preview he published in Vanity Fair as a sample of the book, used to drum up excitement and entice potential readers to purchase.
The comment, aside from being inappropriate, is wholly unnecessary. The current phrasing takes focus away from the discussion of Hannity and Trump, and brings the focus to the president’s bedroom. As you’re supposed to be pondering a political partnership, readers’ minds may wander to the gossip fodder awkwardly fit into an unrelated thought. Propriety aside, the idea legitimately weakens the sentence.
The paragraph could have easily been amended in two ways, improving both decorum and clarity of thought. By removing the first reference to Melania, Stelter would be far from the first person to describe an unusually close friendship with a degree of partnership as akin to a marriage, just without sex. In contrast, he could remove the reference to sex, and has a lovely comparison between two major partners in a man’s life – one professional, one personal.
The rest of the excerpt does not fair much better in regards to quality. It reads like a lurid fantasy of liberals, where Fox News and the president are in a volatile codependent relationship, people on the right don’t actually believe in the policies they propose, and every conservative hates each other as much as the left hates them.
The segment reads more like a tabloid story about the secret tensions in a high-profile relationship — in this case, the publicized friendship between Donald Trump and Sean Hannity — than a meaningful exploration of its subject matter. Stelter filled as many jabs and insults as possible throughout, substituting substance for shallow appeals to the anti-Trump crowd at whom the book is no doubt aimed.
In a world of tabloids and reality shows, people will always want to joke and speculate about the private lives of powerful and famous. That likely includes the president and the first lady. Those jokes have a time and a place, and that is in personal conversations. However, in what is meant to be a serious political exposé about politics and media, hypothesizing negatively about the state of the first couple’s sex life is irrelevant and, frankly, gross.
Paulina Enck is an intern at the Federalist and current student at Georgetown University in the School of Foreign Service. Follow her on Twitter at @itspaulinaenck