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A Madam's Tragedy and a John's Crime of Living

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.

The national media are capitalizing on the recent tragedy of notorious “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey’s suicide to launch into yet another vacuous round of navel-gazing and post-modern feminist angst. By shaping the narrative as sexist, the media are exhibiting the freshest example of how left-wing feminism has infiltrated American newsrooms—much as it has college classrooms decades ago.


Convicted on charges of running a Washington sex ring, Palfrey hanged herself May 1, a heartrending conclusion to the legal saga for her and her family. The terrible loss of a life made a bitter end to a life filled with unhappiness and bad decisions.

Unfortunately, it also ushered in the predictable wailing and gnashing of teeth over the alleged inequality of treatment between the sexes, with much of the analysis mirroring the feminists’ mantra of female victimization.

A single day after the story broke, an ABC News article by Maddy Sauer told us that Palfrey’s decision to end her life “has again shown the great discrepancy between men and women when it comes to how the crime of prostitution is punished.” 

Subtly titling her news story “Madams Fall While Their Johns Prosper,” Sauer claims that the prosecution of a female leader of a crime ring over that of an individual male participant is sexist. She points out that Palfrey’s federal trial and subsequent self-inflicted death clash with the favorable fate of such identified clients as Ambassador Randall Tobias, who resigned from the State Department only to later take a position running the Indianapolis Airport Authority.

It’s a clash that smacks of only one thing, says Sauer: gender inequity.

Radical feminism is part and parcel of the liberal media’s bias, and the female claim to victimization works easily within the framework of leftist adherence to irresponsibility-based entitlement. Unfortunately for the feminists’ unflinching fight against the white Eurocentric patriarchy, however, stamping “sexism” onto the Palfrey tragedy is a knee-jerk media narrative that won’t hold water. The Spitzer sex scandal is one reason why.


If you’re wondering “Spitzer who?” one shouldn’t be surprised. Considering today’s typical news cycle—saturation followed by amnesia—it is no wonder the once drawn-out episode involving former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s dangerous liaisons now conveniently escapes the media’s attention. Sauer may not recall, but it was less than two months ago that the nation watched Spitzer’s career swirl down the toilet following his frequent high-priced trysts with call girls at D.C.’s Mayflower Hotel.

And what of the prostitutes? One of them, aspiring singer, songwriter and apparent Spitzer fave Ashley Dupre, enjoyed a spike in earnings from her two singles, has entertained six-and-seven-figure offers to pose for Hustler and Penthouse, and recently received a million-dollar proposal from the purveyors of the Girls Gone Wild videos. Not bad for having publicly admitted to committing a crime. (I looked, but I couldn’t find ABC’s earlier story on Spitzer: “Johns Fall While Their Hookers Prosper.”)

Under the strange logic exhibited by the media, the abrupt end of Spitzer’s career in the face of the rising fame and fortune of his favorite brunette call girl would be discrimination against men. Oh wait—that doesn’t exist. It seems the media are great at connecting the dots but only one sex scandal at a time.

What we have is one story where a man—Spitzer—engages in a crime and gives up his entire political career while his female cohort has money thrown at her, and a different story where it’s the woman—Palfrey—who loses everything while the guilty men go on in affluence. Tragic and unjust? Sure. But gender discrimination, no.


ABC isn’t the only fountainhead of journalistic truth. In an equally hard-hitting piece published May 2, Washington Post staff writer Monica Hesse describes her feelings, writing, “Maybe we feel sad because of the gendered irony.”

Hesse crudely advances the radical feminist narrative, noting that “the powerful men whose names surfaced in the scandal, the ones who did not appear in the courtroom, who did not have to discuss their menstrual cycles publicly, have all remained unscathed.”

Further exploring her introspective self-pity, Hesse conjectures on Palfrey’s personal thoughts during the trial: “She would have been thinking that she provided a legitimate service … She would have been thinking that if this was a crime at all, it was surely a victimless one between consenting adults.” Hesse then adds the parenthetical remark, “Do we feel sad because, deep down, we think that she’s right?” I suspect Hesse’s feelings are a lot closer to the surface than she intimates.

One Huffington Post blogger makes Palfrey out to be a regular martyr. In a post titled “The D.C. Madam: She Took the Fall for Everyone,” the blogger laments, “I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard of Senator David Vitter or any of the other clients on the D.C. Madam’s list killing themselves.” I don’t know about you, but I find this writer’s thinly veiled disappointment a bit unnerving.

The media like to selectively dispense judgment and compassion based on sexism, on racism, and all the other “-isms” they pretend to hate. And when it comes to crimes of sex, it’s the men who are always the bad guys.


Amidst the sex, lies, drama and suicide, for feminists and the liberal media at least, one thing is clear: a crime was committed here. The crime by which rich white guys audaciously continued living their lives—while the D.C. Madam lay dead.

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