Strippers And The Body Politic

Reporters always keep an eye out for scandal, particularly if it involves politicians and strippers.  The latest public figure to be put under the spotlight is Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat in New Jersey.

Booker’s tale seems more stupid than scandalous.  He had a private exchange with one of his Twitter “followers” — a stripper named Lynsie Lee who works at a Portland, Oregon establishment that touts itself as the world’s first vegan strip club.  (The concept of a “vegan strip club” is curious, because it suggests that patrons actually might choose among strip clubs based upon the cuisine they serve, but that’s neither here nor there.)  The exchange began when Booker posted that he wanted to be president of New Jersey’s Star Trek club, and Lee publicly tweeted in response, “if you’re ever POTUS I call dibs on First Lady.”   Booker then sent a private message to Lee that said “And The East Coast loves you and by the East Coast, I mean me,” to which Lee replied, “Well now I’m blushing.”  The exchange ended with Booker responding, “It’s only fair.”

Pretty silly and sophomoric stuff, but scandalous?  Hardly.  Booker showed questionable judgment in having a private exchange with a stranger, but he didn’t pull a Weiner and send inappropriate texts and photos or otherwise press the social media envelope.

Contrast Booker’s story with that of Wilbur Mills, a Democratic Congressman who was the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee.  In 1974 Mills’ car was stopped for speeding in the early morning hours near the Tidal Basin in Washington, D.C.  Mills’ nose was bleeding, his face was scratched, and he was intoxicated.  An inebriated woman leaped from the car and waded into the Tidal Basin, where she had to be rescued by police.  She was a stripper who danced under the name of Fanne Foxx, the Argentine Firecracker.  (f you want to get a sense of how a serious newspaper used to cover such events, read the Washington Post‘s contemporaneous coverage of the incident and Mills’ hilarious attempts to explain what happened, available here.)

A powerful politician, alcohol, blood, police, and a stripper jumping into water near the Jefferson Memorial.  Now that’s a scandal!  Compared to the tale of Wilbur Mills and Fanne Foxx, Cory Booker’s Twitter exchange is thin gruel, indeed.

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