Media Panel: Should Chelsea Clinton Respond to “Horndog” Questions?

CAMBRIDGE, Mass.  Marvin Kalb, a former reporter for CBS and NBC News, looks more than a little flustered as he adjusts his lapel microphone.  “I did this for three decades,” he says as he fumbles with the familiar device.  “For some reason I’m a little nervous tonight.”

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“Marvin, a ‘horndog’ is not, technically speaking, a dog at all.”

Kalb’s disconcerted air may have something to do with the topic of the panel discussion he will chair tonight as senior fellow at the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, namely: “Should Chelsea Clinton respond to questions about her horndog father at public appearances in support of her mother’s presidential campaign?”

“These are uncharted waters we’re sailing in,” Kalb says to a reporter who is interviewing the former reporter before an audience composed largely of reporters.  “Can the press, under the guise of covering an eternal political campaign, break the tedium by asking questions with a decidedly prurient interest?”

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“Next softball question–over there.”

Arguing the affirmative–that a candidate’s decision to subject his or her children to the bright glare of a political campaign makes them fair game–is Verrill Conroy, a long-time Associated Press reporter.  “In 2008 the Clinton campaign relied on plants to ask softball questions at media events,” he notes.  “We should be able to ask what size bra she wears if we want.”

Opposing him will be Sandra Day-Feldman, who supports the concept of a “zone of privacy” for political candidates first proposed by former President Bill Clinton when news of his subscription to “Hot Sweaty Biker Babes” first became public in 1993.  “I think there are things about the candidates that we don’t need to know,” she says.  “Like if Ron Paul smokes pot and listens to Iron Butterfly albums, that’s really none of our concern.”

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Iron Butterfly: Inspired the In-a-Gadda-da-Vida-Free School Zone Act of 1968.

Kalb forces the issue, asking Conroy whether he would like stories of his extra-marital affairs to be broadcast to the world.  “I have lived a blameless life,” Conroy responds.  “Other than one time at a Christmas party when I high-fived Veneta Miller after she won the ‘Accounting Department Trivial Pursuit’ contest and my hand inadvertently landed on her, shall we say, milk jug.”

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“Ohmygod–Veneta Miller is coming on to Verrill Conroy!”

The debate was sparked by a student journalist’s question during a campaign appearance Ms. Clinton made in 2008 at Butler University in Indianapolis.   “Wow,” she responded to the query as to how her mother’s credibility had been affected by the Monica Lewinsky scandal.  “You’re the first person actually that’s ever asked me that question in the, I don’t know maybe, 70 college campuses I’ve now been to.  I went to Stanford and Oxford and you’re like, stuck here in this second-tier–I almost said third-tier–dump of a school.  It must be a really dumb question.”

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