Social Media Attacks on Candidates’ Wives: How Low Will We Go?

Social Media Attacks on Candidates’ Wives: How Low Will We Go?

On the day after the Arizona primary, we were treated to yet another illustration of just how low we can go in campaigning for the nation’s highest office.

It began (arguably) with a SuperPAC-funded Facebook ad that used an . . . I’ll say “unfortunate” . . . picture from a professional photo shoot of Donald Trump’s wife Melania. Trump fired off an attack tweet referring to Senator Ted Cruz twice by Trump’s favorite adjective for the senator, followed by a threat to “spill the beans” on Heidi Cruz, the senator’s wife.

The senator tweeted back a denial of any involvement in the distasteful ad and a statement about Donald Trump’s character if he were to stoop to attacking the senator’s wife.

This was followed up by a Trump retweet of a meme comprised of an unflattering picture of Heidi Cruz side-by-side with a glamor shot of Melania Trump. To which Senator Cruz responded, “Leave Heidi the hell alone!”

This is how some of those who would lead this country attempt to prove they are the better candidate for that serious responsibility?

Before any of us get comfortable asserting our moral superiority over these candidates and the well-funded outside groups that are adding fuel to the conflagration, we might want to check how we look in our collective social mirror.

I am reminded of a story published many years ago by a major metropolitan daily in Florida about the wife of a mayor. The story certainly did not lack for drama, but it wasn’t just the drama that drew the paper to devote so much staff time, paper and ink to it. It was also that fact that she was the mayor’s wife.

Kind of like Melania Trump or Heidi Cruz.

Notwithstanding that this woman did not hold any public office and did not exercise a public trust, she was torn apart by a lengthy exposé of her rather difficult path through life. The story (which, as I recall, consumed a large portion of the front page of the section in which it appeared, followed by many, many additional column inches inside) included embarrassing accounts of choices she’d made and unsavory people with whom she’d been familiar.

For some reason, the editors and reporters of the paper thought the past life of the spouse of an elected official merited as much (actually, more) coverage than the past lives of most candidates and officeholders.

Before we simply lump the journalists in with the candidates and judge them all to be morally inferior, let me add one other bit of information.

The reporters and editors of this paper followed up with an informal survey, seeking to assess the response to their story on the mayor’s wife. Several members of the team picked up the phone and called various “movers and shakers” to see what they thought.

At the time, I was one of those purported to move and shake things. So I received one of the calls.

What I learned from the conversation was that this very personal and very painful story seemed to have reached every living person in the area. Everyone had read it, and everyone had things to say about what they had learned from it.

In other words, everyone found the attraction of being a retrospective voyeur too compelling to resist.

I know, I know, Dear Reader, you weren’t there. And certainly you would not have taken salacious pleasure in reading the rather intimate details reported, nor have you (nor will you) do so with the very intimate image to which I referred in the beginning of this blog.

But an awful lot of people have and will . . . and I’m as guilty as the rest.

So, yes, perhaps we need to know just how low our candidates, independent campaigns, and those who report on them are going. But perhaps we also need to tell them when they’ve stooped too low.

There is such a thing, isn’t there?

2 Responses to Social Media Attacks on Candidates’ Wives: How Low Will We Go?

  • Beverly Williams

    Good morning Dr. Paine, This article reminds me of how cruel people can be. I had an incident where I was worongly accused for doing something unthinkable, knowing my character. I was the wife of an elected official and it all boiled down too “Polly and her cousin Tic”. I have found some folks will do and say anything, never realizing Karma, what goes around comes around. Have a great one.

    • Dr. Scott Paine


      Thank you for sharing your experience and reinforcing the question posed in the blog.

      For me, it wouldn’t be karma I’d be worried about. It would be the measure I use to measure others, knowing it will be the measure that will be used in the end for me.

      Thanks again . . . and thanks for reading!