I Had a One-Night Stand With Nick Denton

Gawker's Christine O'Donnell story pushes once-smart site squarely into supermarket tabloid territory

I had a one-night stand with Nick Denton.

Actually no, but I did see him last night.

Earlier in the day, Gawker published an anonymous account of a “one-night stand” a Philadelphia man apparently had three years ago with Christine O’Donnell, the Republican senatorial candidate from Delaware who’s become an easy target for Democrats and late night hosts for her anti-masturbation views and witchcraft-addressing campaign videos.

The post was met with immediate criticism from women’s groups (the National Organization for Women called it "public sexual harassment”), right and left-leaning media outlets — even fire from Gawker’s own women’s blog Jezebel. (Disclosure: I contribute to Deadspin.com, the Gawker-owned sports blog that created a media firestorm earlier this month after publishing alleged photos of Brett Favre's genitalia the then-New York Jets quarterback allegedly sent to a female sideline reporter. Allegedly.)

I asked Denton — who I saw at a swanky Manhattan launch party for Snob, a Russian magazine being funded by billionaire and new New Jersey Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov — about the O'Donnell hit. He claimed he was surprised by “attention” the story had received, and the Gawker founder confirmed to me that the company paid what he called a “modest” fee for the story and accompanying photos, as it has been known to do.

The story  generated more than half a million page views in the 24 hours or so since it was first posted (UPDATE: 750,000 — a million-plus when you count the photo gallery — though some of that can be attributed to people returning to read the 2,600-plus comments) and even prompted a statement — however misguided in its target — from the O’Donnell campaign.

This story is just another example of the sexism and slander that female candidates are forced to deal with. From Secretary Clinton, to Governor Palin, to soon-to-be Governor Haley, Christine's political opponents have been willing to engage in appalling and baseless attacks — all with the aim of distracting the press from covering the real issues in this race. Even the National Organization for Women gets it, but Christine's opponent disturbingly does not. As Chris Coons said on September 16th he would not condone personal attacks against Christine. Classless Coons goons have proven yet again to have no sense of common decency or common sense with their desperate attacks to get another rubber stamp for the Obama-Pelosi-Reid agenda. Such attacks are truly shameful, but they will not distract us from making our case to Delaware voters — and keeping the focus on Chris Coons' record of higher taxes, increased spending, and as he has done again here, breaking his promises to the voters.

Sorry, Coons is not the issue here — since I highly doubt this attack originated from his camp. The issue is Gawker’s loose definition of “one-night stand” (the author, whose anonymity has since been delightfully compromised by the Village Voice, said that the two never had sex) and willingness to pay to publish an item that actually makes the would-be villain — in this case, the senatorial candidate with archaic views on sex — a victim. A sympathetic figure, even.

The story exposed no smoking gun, no hypocrisy — it actually shows O’Donnell apparently practices the abstinence she preaches — and lowers the bar, even further, for a website that used to snarkily raise it.