In tabloid tradition, the New York Post fattens itself on the sordid and the outrageous. Sex scandals, political scandals, and the unseemly lifestyles of the rich and famous in Manhattan are the paper's traditional beat. But the Post's appetite for naughtiness knows a limit: If Post Editor in Chief Col Allan is one of the principals, then the story isn't news.
The Post put a damper on a big story that broke this weekend in Australia after the Sunday Telegraph of Sydney reported that Allan accompanied Kevin Rudd, a Labor Party member of the Australian Parliament and shadow foreign affairs minister, to the New York strip bar Scores in September 2003. By the time they left, Rudd was blotto drunk. (See a version of the Sunday Telegraph story here.)
Rudd tells the Sunday Telegraph that he can't remember what happened at Scores because he had "had too much to drink."
Rudd's party was expected to win the fall 2007 elections, which would make him the nation's next prime minister. But fallout from the news that he spent an inebriated evening at a breast bar during an official visit to New York may block those ambitions.
Potential heads of state who entertain themselves in such a fashion while in New York almost guarantee themselves a berth in the Post if the paper finds out about it. But today's edition of the Post breathes not a word about the Rudd-Allan night out. Obviously Post editors and reporters knew about the event: The Sunday Telegraph, which broke the story, like the New York Post, belongs to genocidal tyrant Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., so the Post couldn't have been uninformed about the news flash. As a participant, Allan had to have known about the incident, and he knew the story was coming. He confirmed to the Sunday Telegraph that he and Rudd had had drinks "at a gentlemen's club and he [Rudd] behaved like a perfect gentleman."
In a statement, Rudd says that he had finished dinner with Allan and another member of Parliament, Warren Snowdon, when Allan proposed they relocate for another drink.
"With the benefit of hindsight, I should not have gone on for a further drink," Rudd says. The member of Parliament may have been too plastered to remember what he did at Scores, but the bender didn't upset his internal clock. "It is our recollection that we left within about an hour."
The New York Daily News, the Post's competitor, delighted in the Rudd-Allan news today. Reporting that Allan is "no stranger to Scores," the Daily News uses the incident to reprise May 2007 allegations made in a signed affidavit by a former Post employee about "favors" the Post editor has received at the club. The affidavit also claimed Allan and other Post staffers accepted freebies in exchange for favorable coverage in his paper. A Post spokesman told the Daily News at the time that Allan denied the charges and specifically denied having had any sexual contact at the club. Allan, who was said to be vacationing in Australia, could not be reached by the Daily News for comment on the Rudd tale.
When the May charges were leveled, the Post got in front of the scandal with a piece in the "Page Six" column titled "Lies & Smears Aimed at the Post." The paper conceded that "Page Six" editor Richard Johnson had taken a $1,000 Christmas gift from a restaurateur who is frequently mentioned in the column.
Give the Sunday Telegraph and the genocidal tyrant one thumb up for breaking the unflattering news about colleague Col Allan, although the newspaper notes that "discussions" about Rudd's night out have "been current in diplomatic and political circles [in Australia] for some time." Team Murdoch may have been pre-emptively breaking bad news about itself again.
But give Allan a one-way ticket back to his native Australia for sending this perfect tabloid tale down the memory hole. Or could it be that, having added the Wall Street Journal to his roster, Murdoch has decided to go straight and has instructed Allan to publish nothing in his Post that is not suitable for ladies, gentlemen (not the ones who go to gentlemen's clubs), and children?
In Australia, all the leading politicians are being asked if they have ever frequented a topless bar. Most have, but they all say it happened long, long ago. Send strip-bar recollections to firstname.lastname@example.org. Addendum: But don't write in to correct my wonderful headline. I know that the prime minister is not the head of state in Australia. I was riffing off the famous New York Post headline that many readers will recall: "Headless Body in Topless Bar."* I'm sure you'll agree that "Next Head of Government in Topless Bar" doesn't scan as nicely. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum, in a future article, or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)
Correction, Aug. 20, 2007: This article misquoted a famous New York Post headline as "Headless Man in Topless Bar." The correct headline is "Headless Body in Topless Bar."