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FiveThirtyEight

Politics

I am sick to my stomach over That Couple. And now comes news they are peddling their exclusive story to the highest media bidder. Disgusting, but hardly surprising.

I’m not going to use their names because you can be sure that, between giddy calls to their agent and lawyer, they are rushing to their computer every half hour to Google themselves. Who’s talking about us now? What are people saying? Look, another picture of us on the web! We’re more famous than any of our friends—no, all of our friends, combined! Tehehehee—the joke’s on you, America!

No, you’re not famous; you’re infamous. You’re situated squarely at the bottom of an already too-deep and increasingly murky barrel of celebrity culture, celebrity journalism, and (un)reality TV, the depths of which are probably making even Andy Warhol cringe in his grave. I want this to be your fifteenth minute. I want your egg timer to ding now, so you can exit our national discourse as swiftly, completely and permanently as possible.

And, you know what? We can do something about it. We can let the producers of whatever crap program agrees to pay these creepy, pathetic, attention-starved goons for the rights to interview That Couple that not only will we tune out that specific broadcast, but we will tune out that program in the future as well. We can compound the effect by identifying the companies that sponsor the airing of the interview, and boycotting their products or services.

Why? Because there are literally millions of Americans who bust their asses through school and job training, who serve our country in the military in harm’s way, or merely plumb our toilets at home or change our baskets at the office—who, in short, work hard, raise their families and pay their taxes–and do all of that with zero expectation that they should win some version of the public celebrity lottery that suddenly showers them with a degree of fame and fortune that That Couple not merely aspires to, but clearly believe they deserve. When somebody like Captain Sully catapults from nowhere to national stardom–or my fellow Bethlehem Central High School alum Rich Jadick becomes a national hero after re-joining the Marines in his late-30s (and despite having a wife and kids and the chance to make a lot of money safely back in the States) to help the medical Corps revolutionize front-line emergency medical care–at least they earned their fame. And I harbor no complaints about how showmen across the ages—from P.T. Barnum to Muhammad Ali, from Harry Houdini to Madonna—maximized their opportunities in order to achieve greater fame and fortune, because they could boast an underlying talent or social value, and often both.

That Couple offers nothing of the sort. In fact, they offer nothing beyond their naked greed and attention-starved egos. They are private and public leeches. They inherited a family business, ran it into the ground, and apparently owe money all over town. And yet That Couple self-style themselves a King and Queen of high society when, in truth, they are at best court jesters in clownish, borrowed clothes. High society? They would be a festering boil unworthy of status in low society, whatever that is. They are no more deserving of being on the invite list for the Saturday morning pancake fundraiser at the Elks Club in Elmira than they are a White House state dinner in Washington.

You know what else? The national media talking heads need to step up here. This is a moment of truth for them. They need to drive a stake into the heart of this story right now, and decisively so. They should announce on their shows that they are not going to cover That Couple beyond any news-worthy aspects, like the security breach angle and the White House and government’s response to it. Though Republican Rep. Peter King is probably grandstanding a bit, he and any other Republicans (Democrats, too!) who want to point out the embarrassment to the White House and the dangers of this sort of thing are within their rights. Fine: Cover that aspect of the story, which is very much the public’s business. Hold the Secret Service and White House political and social operations to account. If heads must roll, Mr. Emanuel, roll them. But leave it at that for That Couple.

Meanwhile, I want to specifically hear from those morality mavens over at FOX News, who publicly wring their hands about the declining social values and family values of our country. I want to hear their voices leading a chorus of silence when it comes to That Couple. Roger Ailes: You want to prove you’re more than Republican mouthpiece and bullhorn for vapid, calorie-free infotainment? Send the word down from on high that you are not going to turn your network over to these political poseurs. As for Shep Smith, who has lately proved to be a shining light in an otherwise dim constellation of hosts at FOX, I’m especially counting you to call this farce what it is, and give That Couple a much-deserved dressing down. This moment is tailor-made for you to prove your mettle; seize it.

OK, enough already. I can feel my blood pressure rising. I need input from something more placid and soothing than writing about That Couple…like, say, watching today’s NFL broadcasts.

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