Revisiting the Sanford Presser


What stands out about yesterday’s press conference was how raw and unrehearsed it was. Sure, parts of it were self-serving; other parts were less than fully honest. But I was especially struck by how Sanford didn’t fall back on the wife as madonna/mistress as whore trope. TPM Reader VL noticed the same thing:

I love what the governor did yesterday. He is the first public man to go out there and talk about his feelings in a way that respects both women. Most men, when they do get around to admitting their affairs, talk about their mistresses as some kind of vixen temptress who caught them up in their evil snare, and the man then fell from grace. The woman is merely a mistake, a bad judgement. Never do they admit feelings, or speak in a feeling or responsible way about the other person. Governor Sanford talked about both women with love and did not attempt to deny his feelings, which is such a habit of men when they decide to move on. It takes much more caring and courage and humanity to do what Governor Sanford did yesterday.

I offer that not as an excuse or an apologia. It’s just to point out that there is something different about this episode than so many of the others that have popped up in recent years. My immediate reaction is usually: misogynist. That may still be true here, but it was less obvious.

Late Update: A lot of readers taking issue with this read on Sanford’s presser. TPM Reader LR is one example:

Sanford spoke in a way that “respects both women”?! Are you kidding? I cannot imagine that his press conference left his wife feeling respected. Indeed, if he respected her — or the woman with whom he had (is having?) an affair — he wouldn’t have gone into all that crazy, meandering detail. Whatever happened to discretion? The whole presser was self-serving and self-indulgent. Apparently Sanford has only two settings: deception (I’m in the Appalachians!) or reality-tv-style confession. What he’s put his wife and children through is no less despicable because of the emotionalism he put on display yesterday.


David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.