Who Cares About Housing? Let’s Talk About Sex!

Who Cares About Housing? Let's Talk About Sex! BLOG VIEW: The next presidential election is less than a year away, and logic would dictate that the Democratic incumbent and the nine candidates seeking the Republican nomination would be grilled at length by the mainstream media on the three most important issues of the day: the stagnant economy, the disastrously high unemployment rate and the dismal state of the housing market.

Maybe I am reading the wrong newspapers and websites and watching the wrong TV news channels, but during the past two weeks, I have yet to see any in-depth 2012 election media coverage as it relates to these issues – especially housing. What I have seen and heard during the past two weeks, however, is a surplus of shrill coverage of unsubstantiated charges of sexual harassment against Herman Cain.

The media's infantile preoccupation with sex-related articles at the expense of economics-related news is hardly unexpected, but its current lapse into questionable reporting creates an extraordinary mess where serious concerns are being intentionally ignored in favor of highly dubious subject matter.

Do charges of harassment against a presidential candidate warrant the media's attention? Yes, if these charges are legitimate and can be corroborated. Quite frankly, I have my doubts about this story, due, in large part, to his accusers' extraordinary lack of the credibility – one has a well-documented history of tax evasion and reneging on loan payments, while the other has a curious workplace habit of yelling ‘sexual harassment’ in order to shake down her employers for extra cash. The publicity-hungry antics of the lawyers representing these women have only weakened their respective cases.

Of course, Cain exacerbated the matter with his less-than-skillful handling of the accusations. To his credit, at least he did not follow Bill Clinton's 1992 modus operandi and send political attack dogs on the women.

But even as this tawdry story unfolded over the past two weeks, the media found itself unable to multitask between serving up the Cain scandal and providing coverage of subjects that have far more relevance to the American public. Instead, the serious news was put on the proverbial back burner.

Admittedly, it is not always easy to get straightforward and spin-free answers from the candidates. The recent Republican debates in Las Vegas and Michigan have generated a wealth of vague or weird answers from the candidates about how to solve the housing crisis – my favorite moment came in the Las Vegas debate, when Michele Bachmann took a detour away a straightforward question on rising foreclosures into an utterly irrelevant paean to female empowerment.

However, some candidates have offered a top layer of their ideas on addressing the crisis. Cain and Mitt Romney, when directly asked by mainstream media in separate interviews, have called for an end to federal loan modification assistance programs. But the media has not pressed either candidate seriously on the subject of housing.

Other candidates have volunteered to go further – but these candidates are not the darlings of the mainstream media. Ron Paul believes in the elimination of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – though most of Paul's media coverage seems to be focused on his complaining that the mainstream media is intentionally ignoring him. Newt Gingrich wants to repeal of the Dodd-Frank Act while downsizing the government-sponsored enterprises, with the goal of privatizing their operations. Yet Gingrich also cannot get a fair shake from the media.

Running concurrent to this is the nonexistent coverage of the Obama re-election campaign. I am waiting for the White House press corps to ask the president direct questions on why his housing policies failed so badly and what another four years of this debacle will mean to the nation. For his part, the president is ignoring the topic of housing in favor of endlessly vague talk about creating jobs – but, then again, all he can do is talk about creating jobs since he never actually created any.

However, it is the media's job to get answers instead of slogans from the candidates, and the serious nature of the campaign did not go on hiatus while the unsubstantiated allegations of sexual harassment popped up. This is particularly damaging when we consider some of last week's news included a continued free fall in housing prices and rising foreclosure levels.

In the ultimate scheme of things, negative developments in housing will have damaging consequences for the American economy. If the harassment charges against Cain can be backed with evidence instead of hearsay, then they deserve the media's full attention. If not, then it is time for the media to do its job and cover the real news that impacts the nation.

– Phil Hall, editor, Secondary Marketing Executive

(Please address all comments regarding this opinion column to hallp@sme-online.com.)

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