The girlfriend non-issue

Seven Days’ political columnist Paul Heintz made a rare trip into the office this weekend — well, maybe he just filed from home — to post a thumbsucker piece about whether or not the media should report on Governor Shumlin’s private life.

Specifically, the fact that he’s been, ahem, dating a much younger woman for some time now.

“Dating,” Heintz’ term for it.

Going to the drive-in, hanging out at the malt shop, playing miniature golf, “running out of gas” on the way home. Takes me back.

Madame X, some guy, some guy,some other guy. From some guy's Facebook page.

Madame X, some guy, some guy, some other guy. From some guy’s Facebook page.

Heintz examines the issue because last Thursday, VTDigger’s Anne Galloway posted a very thorough Shumlin profile. And near the very end, she disclosed the open secret that Shumlin has been, uh, “dating” 30-year-old Katie Hunt. In his piece, Heintz explores the Vermont tradition of not addressing the private lives of public figures, and ponders whether Galloway did the right thing.

In the process, he gave himself a chance to say, well, we knew about it too, so it wasn’t a scoop; we’d just decided not to publish it. (I eagerly await Paul’s email explaining how I’m off base, in 3…2…1…)

But the core question: is Hunt’s identity fair game? Was Galloway within her rights to publish it?

To which I say, of course it is and of course she was.

And if, as Heintz implies, the Shumlin camp is upset about it, I suggest they stop whining and concentrate on real stuff. If they’re mad at VTDigger, they should stop taking media coverage too personally.

Really, it’s downright strange that the Shumlineers are hot and bothered about the G.F. when, in the same piece, Galloway has people describing the Governor as two-faced and opportunistic. And within 24 hours, VTDigger also published a long piece exposing all kinds of problems in Vermont Health Connect. All this, plus an election, and you’re upset over the girlfriend? Perspective, people.

The whole notion that Shumlin’s girlfriend’s identity is off limits is just silly. After all, he hasn’t even tried to keep it a secret. The two have been seen together in public, obviously acting as a couple. For God’s sake, there’s a photo of them on Sen Dick Sears’ Facebook page. In light of all that, why the hell should the Governor have any expectation of privacy?

If it’s a Vermont tradition, then it’s one of many Vermont traditions that ought to be dragged out back, shot in the head, and buried as a relic of a bygone age when the media pretended that Babe Ruth didn’t drink and Warren Harding didn’t sleep around. And vice versa.

Besides, if I were Ms. Hunt and I’d been the Governor’s steady for a while now, I’d be wondering why he feels the need to conceal my identity. Am I a little piece on the side, or a real partner?

Also, Galloway framed it responsibly. It was not, as UVM prof Garrison Nelson put it, “tabloid stuff.” It was part of a detailed, comprehensive picture of Peter Shumlin the politician and the person. Family ties are part of the mix, The media routinely mention parents, spouses, children, and other relatives when relevant. There should be no controversy about naming Katie Hunt and then getting on with our business.

Although I do have one question. Do Shumlin’s college-age daughters call her “Mom”?

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