All the Truth is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid Book Review
By Angela Hart
All the Truth is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid by Matt Bai is a fascinating read. The book focuses on Gary Hart’s public scandal, which became a precedent for future political representatives having their lives on display for the public. Having Hart’s personal life and public persona both come under scrutiny by the media and, in turn, the American public, offered a hybridization of entertainment, news, and solicitous intrigue. Today, we have TMZ and everyday citizens tweeting pictures and locations of political leaders, ignoring the line of public versus private. The Gary Hart scandal helped make this transition possible.
The book opens with Matt Bai speaking with Gary Hart. Due to the nature of his decimated political career, I was surprised Hart was willing to speak with Bai. The interview allowed Bai to briefly explain the turning point in Hart’s career:
“As anyone alive during the 1980s knew, Hart, the first serious presidential contender of the 1960s generation, had been taken down and eternally humiliated by a scandal of his own making, an alleged affair with a beautiful blonde whose name, Donna Rice, had entered the cultural lexicon, along with the boat beside which they had been photographed together – Monkey Business” (Bai 7).
In today’s society, the everyday citizen can simply take out their phone and Google someone. If there has ever been a scandalous moment in that person’s life, the documentation will be easily accessible, making it impossible for an issue to simply be forgotten.
The Gary Hart scandal was the turning point for combining public and private lives. Hart gave the media the challenge to find anything troublesome about his life. Unfortunately, for him, they met that challenge. As Matt Bai noted, up until this point in time, a politician’s personal life was left alone by the media. Journalists cited their families, friends, causes, and simple things of that nature, but never crossed the invisible line of actively investigating their intimate moments. But, the 1980s was the post-Watergate generation who had access to television and various media sources. These factors aligned in making the Gary Hart scandal the focal point of politics, entertainment, and news. Gary Hart was a rising Democratic star who was captivating citizens and gaining political momentum. He was well known and liked by the public, making him someone of interest. Unfortunately for Hart, not only did he have an affair, but he had an affair with a beautiful woman. His alleged mistress, Donna Rice, was an actress who was significantly younger than him making the story much more interesting.
After receiving an anonymous tip, The Miami Herald had reporters follow Donna Rice to a townhouse on a Saturday night. The following day, they confronted Hart asking him about the affair. Hart denied the allegations and told the journalists to follow him around. His casual flippant response of “follow me around,” is now thought to have been a challenge. In order to pursue the story, both Rice and Hart had cameramen and journalists waiting for them at their residences. When Hart held a press conference about the matter, journalists asked more prying questions such as if he was an adulterer, how he would define adultery, and if he and his wife had an understanding. At this moment in time, journalists were asking extraordinarily personal questions that went beyond their typical areas of inquiry.
While Hart may have been trying let the storm pass, his affair was still being discussed by the public and media days after the press conference. A picture of the pair surfaced showing Rice sitting on Hart’s lap, embracing. Hart even had a shirt on that said, “Monkey Business.” Donna Rice’s friend, Lynn Armandt, sold the pictures to People for $150,000 (Bia 184). Not only did this add a visual element to keeping the story alive, but it demonstrated how someone not specifically related to the affair could benefit from the publicity. As I read this, I found it to be reminiscent of a lot of today’s stories. A friend of a friend may have heard something of value that they sold to reporters. One issue with the twenty-four-hour news cycle is that reporters need to keep speaking for the entire time. To fill the void, they may turn to less than reputable sources.
Bai’s years as a journalist offer a unique insight into the world of politics. Having been on several campaign trails that offered very little access to candidates, Bai noticed that journalists were not able to converse freely with candidates making them difficult to know personally. The notion that journalists built friendships with the candidates and were offered exclusives was not true for him or his colleagues. The separation of journalists and candidates offers a unique issue. While it is important for reporters to maintain a professional air and the ability to report unbiased news, the lack of access can make it problematic to report anything new or different. Thus, perpetuating a cycle of reporters needing to ask rather intrusive questions and use roundabout methods to write a story.
All the Truth is Out demonstrates that politicians need to be constantly aware of the fact that one misspoken line can haunt them forever. To be successful in today’s political realm, candidates need to be near perfection. In closing, I give this book five out of five stars.
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Knopf; 1st edition (September 30, 2014)