All in the Frist family

We got a call from Matt Lehigh, Sen. Bill Frist’s press aide, after we started working on an item about a minor brouhaha involving the senator’s sons. It seems the Capitol newspaper Roll Call and the blogger Wonkette have been having a bit of fun at the Frist offspring’s expense after some irreverent content appeared on the young men’s Facebook sites.
Our man in Washington, Richard Powelson, began developing the story for this Sunday’s Knoxville Calling column. Lehigh argued that the item wasn’t newsworthy and was an unfair intrusion into the privacy of the Frist sons. We weighed the objection but decided to go ahead and publish for a variety of reasons:
1) Frist is a national leader and presidential candidate, and the sprouts of presidential timber have always been subject to some public scrutiny, just ask the Bushes, the Gores, the Clintons, the Cheneys, etc.
2) Frist was at that very moment leading a national debate involving families and values, namely the push to pass a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Arguably, information that reflected on his own family’s values might be instructive.
3) Millions of American parents of teenagers and college students are adjusting to the new dynamics of Facebook, MySpace and other Internet socializing. It contributes to the national conversation to know that someone near the apex of power also shares the angst.
4) The boys were the ones who went public with the information in the first place by publishing on the Internet.
5) The story was no big deal anyway. There’s no rule that says every word in the newspaper must contribute to serious public dialog. We run frivolous items every day. Readers enjoy them, and no real harm is done.
As it turned out, before Powelson’s item could be prepared, the Associated Press picked up a similar item out of our sister paper in Memphis and moved it on the wires. So we ran it in our People column today. It said:
Washington, D.C. — Two sons of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist have started making news, although not likely the kind craved by their father.
There’s been some chuckling over the recent coverage by the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call and the blogger Wonkette on the Facebook.com pages for Frist’s sons, Bryan (at Princeton) and Jonathan (at Vanderbilt), reports The Commercial Appeal. Wonkette struck first last Friday, with a story about Bryan’s Facebook, and its quote: “I was born an American by Gods amazing grace. Lets bomb some people.

12 thoughts on “All in the Frist family

  1. 50 Cents Wasted

    Jack,
    I’d much rather the local newspaper stick to local issues regarding alcohol and youth. The News-Sentinel is truly irrelevant when it comes to trying to humiliate or embarrass the Frist family. Nice try, I’d look to establish journalistic credibility elsewhere. Assuming, he’s elected President, I doubt the News Sentinel will have a seat in the Press Room for weekly press conferences, but I’d bet the Tennessean, would be front row center. It’s all about credibility and news judgment.
    I’d much rather the local paper look at the new Pilot station in Seymour which is less than 1,000 feet from the Seymour branch of the Sevier County Public Library. As a result of numerous complaints, Mr. Haslam’s newest store has had it’s beer pulled from the shelves and their application for a beer permit has been pended for further investigation as to why the store is within the distance requirements applicable to churches, libraries, schools, etc. Maybe Pilot will have to buy the branch of the Sevier County Public Library and then donate it back to Sevier County to get around the statutory requirements regarding the sale of beer near public places where children are present.
    The kids who drink beer are no less culpable and should not be chided any less than those who sell it to them, already chilled, ready for consumption, probably in a car.
    Where’s your news judgment now News Sentinel? Is there any objectivity left up there or has Pilot bought off that also?

  2. Old Hickory

    That’s a pretty far jump trying to connect families and values to a federal ban on gay marriage. By definition, gay individuals have chosen a lifestyle which does not allow creation of a natural nuclear family and is in direct contravention of Biblical law, particularly the moral tentents outlined in various chapters of Leviticus.
    The News Sentinel’s efforts to play “gotcha” and “what about this” are really disengenous and demonstrate an amateurish level of journalistic integrity and rampant cluelessness in the news department about what is news and what is simply political marksmanship, generally left to tabloids and items adorning the checkout lines of grocery stores.
    In the long run, any credible journalist/editor wouldn’t be hunkered down at the Knoxville News-Sentinel, they’d probably be working for Gannett, the New York Times, the Washington Post, or some other media property where professionalism is demanded on every page and foolish small town plays to be a media property you are not are not tolerated.
    I doubt young McElroy will ever see the gates of Princeton or Vanderbilt, so why not take pot shots at the people and parents who are already there, that’s the theory of objectivity pronounced at the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

  3. Allen

    I make no judgements against Frist or his sons just because a photograph was published. In fact, I thought the image rather funny. However I do respect the fact that it was published and that I was given the opportunity to see it for myself. Personally I am more upset that the Frist boy has such horrible tastes in beer.

  4. Jeff B

    What in the hell does “biblical law” have anything to do with this issue, or any issue in this country? Have we sunk so low as to become a petty theocracy, a place where people actually want a Taliban-like government run by so-called “Christian” leaders?
    After all, biblical law also dictates dietary requirements, distances moved on the sabbath, etc. Or do you just want to pick and choose what “biblical laws” you want us to follow? How about the “biblical law” concerning lying and stealing, something our current leaders might have to answer to in the afterlife.

  5. PC of DC

    Family Values begin at home. One should not, nor can they, stand on the floor of the United States Senate and tell the world that “marriage is under attack” and that “families are threatened” when one allows ones offspring to do this. This wasn’t something he learned at Vandy. He behaved like this LONG before he landed on West End Ave.
    And PS– back off the KNS & AP for running with this. If the genius was smart enough to allow it to be on the World Wide Web, it’s fair game. That’s the one thing the teenage set doesn’t get: If it’s on MySpace or FaceBook, it’s there for the WHOLE FRIGGIN WORLD TO SEE. And there is nothing about Bill Frist’s reputation that should be sacred or protected. He is a disgrace. He’s a heart surgeon who takes money from the tobacco lobby. He is a first-class hypocrite!

  6. Susan Williams

    Obviously PC and Jeff B are probably gay and didn’t enroll at Princeton or Vanderbilt.
    Senator Frist is light years ahead of the trivial debate regarding gay marriage and to the extent he has an opportunity to solidify values the country was formed upon, so be it. More important are issues concerning high fuel prices, the war in Iraq and eventually Iran, the ability of FEMA and other federal agencies to bring federal resources to disaster stricken areas and the sooner the debate moves to issues which affect every American citizen and taxpayer, the better off we will all be.

  7. Mike

    I think you have ignored some of the more outrageous part of the stories, including Jonathan Frist’s anti-minority and antisemetic postings on his own facebook site. If Senator Frist is willing to lecture people on how they should live their lives then he should expect that his racist drunken son will come under scrutiny. Frist is basically saying, look at me, I’m the ideal father/American, emulate me – well I’m not raising any racists drunkards. I don’t want any part of Frist’s family values.

  8. sid

    Oh my dear lord. Reading some of these comments makes me ill.
    “Obviously PC and Jeff B are probably gay and didn’t enroll at Princeton or Vanderbilt.”
    Did you *really* say that? Let me check…Oh good god, you did.
    I thought I lived in a more accepting community. And no Susan, I’m not gay.

  9. anonymous

    Susan, I’m gay and I used to *teach* at Vanderbilt.
    Vandy has improved in the past few years, but racists and anti-Semites have always had a presence there. For example, several years ago the Nashville Scene had a cover story about a professor who claimed he would never give an A to a Jewish student, and went on to describe the pockets of intolerance on campus.
    And contrary to much of the aura of Vanderbilt, it’s usually a third or fourth choice for those who are as nationally well-connected as the Frists. Most likely, JF didn’t have the chops to be accepted at a better school. Princeton and Vanderbilt are not in the same league.
    And about gay marriage? Senator Frist is light years *behind* the debate of gay marriage — polls show attitudes are already shifting. And Susan probably does find the debate “trivial” since she already has access the 1100 rights that the government guarantees married couples.

  10. New Hickory

    Jack–How can one call this sort of racism an excess of youth, or foolishness? The apple does not fall far from the tree. Roll Call, the Washington insiders

  11. Lloyd Menman

    Wow, Tennessee really is an ultra-conservative state. The point is, since most of you don’t seem to get it, is why aren’t these two punks serving in Iraq???

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