Our reporting has met with a fair amount of resistance, with a number of readers complaining that we are focusing on private individuals whose unsavory acts are not newsworthy. I've countered by noting that these "private individuals" hold positions of public trust, managing vast sums of money and/or wielding power and notoriety in ways that give them significant influence. How these people treat those who are less powerful -- their wives, children; other people's wives and children; women and minorities in general -- matters, I've argued. And it is, in fact, newsworthy.
Now we know that very issue -- abuse by the powerful/influential of those who hold less power and influence -- likely will decide the 2016 presidential race.
That became clear last night as stories flooded the Web and mainstream news outlets about GOP candidate Donald Trump and his rampant abuse of women. The New York Times reported on two women who said Trump had groped and kissed them in ways that were unwanted and violated their space. A former People Magazine reporter said Trump had forcibly kissed her while she was in Florida to report on his first year of marriage to Melania Trump; a People headline called the incident an "attack." The Palm Beach Post reported on a 36-year-old woman who said Trump had grabbed her butt.
Before these news accounts, Democrat Hillary Clinton enjoyed a healthy lead and likely was going to win the presidential race anyway. But now, the Trump campaign is in free-fall mode, and the election could turn into one of the most one-sided in history. Perhaps worst of all for Trump, more reports of boorish and creepy behavior could be on the way.
I would argue that the Ashley Madison and Trump stories have much in common. Both are about behavior that is dishonest, disgusting, disloyal, and dehumanizing. Both involve powerful men (mostly white) showing utter disregard for the women and children around them. We have little doubt that Democratic males are capable of being louts. But in these two stories, it appears the bad actors are overwhelmingly Republican, supporters of the party that tends to flaunt its "family values."
In my view, the Trump tale helps show that we took the correct position on the Ashley Madison case, that our determination to pursue the story was based in sound news judgment. At the risk of patting ourselves on the back -- OK, we admit we are patting ourselves on the back -- we saw an alarming societal trend before many others did, and we understood the damage it could do to society. Now, it has snaked its way into the presidential race and has shown we have been close to putting a predator in the White House.
The Trump story is not over, and neither is the Ashley Madison story. Dozens of AM lawsuits from around the country are being litigated at a federal court in St. Louis, Missouri. And we have dozens, maybe hundreds, of profiles to publish on AM customers -- men who might not have Donald Trump's notoriety, but who have a mindset that is a whole like his.