Early this summer, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign for president learned that the men’s magazine GQ was working on a story the campaign was sure to hate: an account of infighting in Hillaryland. So Clinton’s aides pulled a page from the book of Hollywood publicists and offered GQ a stark choice: Kill the piece, or lose access to planned celebrity coverboy Bill Clinton. Despite internal protests, GQ editor Jim Nelson met the Clinton campaign’s demands, which had been delivered by Bill Clinton’s spokesman, Jay Carson, several sources familiar with the conversations said. GQ writer George Saunders traveled with Clinton to Africa in July, and Clinton is slated to appear on the cover of GQ’s December issue, in which it traditionally names a “Man of the Year,” according magazine industry sources.
The journalist who wrote this up describes it as a story about access, but it also speaks to the strange mix of features you get in magazines like GQ – fashion and triviality leavened with the odd ‘serious’ story to burnish the magazine’s image. “Vanity Fair” – the magazine about celebrities who wish they were intellectuals, and intellectuals who wish they were celebrities – is the classic practitioner of this weird mix-and-match. It’s unsurprising that when GQ’s editors have to choose, they would decide to keep the coverboy stuff that sells copies – but I hope they end up publicly embarrassed over this (and the Clinton campaign too; it doesn’t say nice things about their modus operandi).