If you follow the news in Maryland, you’ve heard by now that Gov. Martin O’Malley’s 18-year-old daughter, Tara, was hospitalized after a graduation party. First Lady Katie O’Malley, without saying Tara had too much to drink (which is what every news story on the issue is implying), said the incident was a “teachable moment.”
Here’s my question: Why is this news?
I’m not the type to argue that politicians’ families or family lives are completely off-limits. How a politician treats their spouse and children can often reveal a lot about their personality. And personal actions can reveal public hypocrisy, like when a family values crusader has an affair or when a senator who opposes gay rights is outed.
This has none of those elements. As the Sun notes, O’Malley has pushed measures to crack down on underage drinking in the past. But O’Malley isn’t 18, and he isn’t the one who got drunk. You can argue that it shows he’s a poor parent, but that’s absurd. Did I drink when I was underage? Yep. So did all but three or four of the other 40 kids who lived on my floor freshman year. But that’s not a reflection on our parents, it’s a reflection on the fact that we were 18 and in college.
When a normal person has an affair, it isn’t news. When a politician does, it’s big news, only because it reveals something important about a public figure. But this story doesn’t (actually) reveal anything about O’Malley.
So far, no one is making political hay of this. And I doubt anyone openly will. So it’s easy to say that this story has done no harm. But this is the classic example of undernews, and it’ll show up in backyard conversations and newspaper comment sections for at least the next few months.
I should note that I don’t begrudge any of the numerous outlets that did report it – once Katie O’Malley put out the statement, they basically had to (and were essentially given permission to by the O’Malley family.)