The New Nicole Richie -- Self-Proclaimed Role Model

Nicole Richie, Hollywood Party Girl, is now a mom-to-be. She has cleaned up her act, is sorry for being such a lousy role model to young girls and is ready to let her actions prove she is serious about taking responsibility for her life.  That's the gist of the exclusive 20/20 interview that aired August 3 on ABC.

Diane Sawyer asked some tough questions, but left some significant ones unasked in the New Nicole story.  Unasked, no doubt, because moral relativism is the nonstandard by which the mainstream media look at stories.

First, the good news out of the interview.  Nicole Richie said she is drug free, not drinking, taking care of herself and ready to live a  “healthy and respectable life and be a good example for little girls that are looking up to me.”  She said she understands the skepticism of people who are sick of the celebrities who say they've cleaned up their act, gone to rehab only to be arrested for drug use or drunk driving.  “I do understand that actions speak louder than words. And, you know, I'm here telling you, and now it's really up to me to follow through with what I say,” Richie told Diane Sawyer. 

As if to underscore that point, ABC showed footage of Richie going to court to plead guilty to a recent DUI charge.  Richie will have to spend four days in jail for driving with marijuana and Vicodin in her system. “That's the price I have to pay.  That's what I have to do and I'm going to do it,” she said.

In the course of the interview Sawyer told us that Richie is dating Joel Madden, one of the members of the rock band Good Charlotte.  They are expecting a baby together.  Madden was described as a “confounding mix,” a rocker who doesn't fit the stereotype because he reads his Bible and has tattoos of Jesus Christ on his arms.  The camera panned to a tattoo to emphasize the point.  Madden described himself as living a very conservative life but said, “I'm accepting of other people's wildness. I don't judge people. But in my own choices, I'm pretty conservative.”

The father of an alcoholic, Madden said he couldn't tolerate addiction in people.  A profile in The Washington Post on March 18, 2007 quotes Madden saying he “had chicks…. did drugs” but “made a choice two years ago to straighten up.  I got clean.”  In the 20/20 interview he said he was at a “fork in the road” when he had gotten to know Richie and grown to care for her.  He said he “bet on her” and won because now they are having a baby together.

20/20 showed home video footage of the couple in their home and in a schoolyard and described the video as a “scrapbook” for the unborn baby. 

Now for the bad news.

Unasked question #1:  Why aren't the two of you getting married if you are in love and committed to raising this unborn child together?

In choosing to have their baby out of wedlock Madden and Richie fit neatly into the trend identified in a recent Pew poll which showed a big jump in the number of women in their 20s and 30s having children with boyfriends.

Unasked Question #2:  Don't you think getting married would set a good example for those little girls you now want to inspire?

Again, Richie and Madden fit a pattern.  The same poll, titled “As Marriage and Parenthood Drift Apart, Public is Concerned About Social Impact,” shows that cohabitation is up and a decreasing percentage of the adult population in the United States is married.  The poll found that about half of all “nonmarital” births occur to people who are cohabiting.

The poll also found that most unmarried people want to marry and most Americans (59 percent) think unmarried couples having children is not good for society.

Unasked Question #3: Do you think you are doing the right thing for your unborn child by not getting married?

In the 20/20 interview, Sawyer was not hesitant to ask some pointed questions about drug abuse, eating disorders, arrests for DUI and even the neglect Richie's father, singer Lionel Richie, said he was guilty of in raising his adopted daughter.  Though confrontational, these are questions deemed “safe” for the media to ask because drug use and eating disorders are bad. Even Hollywood agrees with that. 

But when it comes to morality – cohabitation, out of wedlock births – asking questions is unthinkable to the mainstream media because it might just seem judgmental. And being judgmental is very, very bad in the media's morally relativistic framework. Moral relativism and political correctness are the wiggly plumb lines used by mainstream media in much of their reporting.

Kristen Fyfe is senior writer at the Culture and Media Institute, a division of the Media Research Center.