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Bernie Sanders gets mostly silence after his rape fantasy article is unearthed

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Sanders' spokesman called the essay a "dumb attempt at dark satire in an alternative publication [that] in no way reflects his views or record on women." (AP)

Though Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has attracted unflattering headlines this week with the revelation he once penned a "bizarre" essay about rape fantasies, the reaction in the press has so far been calmer than one would expect from a story involving a lawmaker's unorthodox musings on women and sexual abuse.

The article, titled "Man — and Woman," was published in 1972, the first year that Sanders ran for the United States Senate, by the now-defunct Vermont Freeman.

It begins, "A man goes home and masturbates his typical fantasy. A woman on her knees, a woman tied up, a woman abused."

"A woman enjoys intercourse with her man — as she fantasizes being raped by 3 men simultaneously," Sanders, who recently launched his presidential campaign, wrote.

(Image courtesy: Mother Jones and Vermont Freeman)

Mother Jones was first

Mother Jones was first to uncover the senator's 1972 article, publishing a screenshot Tuesday of the well-worn essay. However, the nonprofit news groups did not underscore the particulars of the Vermont senator's peculiar notions.

It wasn't until Sanders' essay caught the attention of right-of-center media groups, specifically the Media Research Center, that his article started to attract mixed reactions from the press.

CNN was quick to the story, with network contributors, including conservative columnist S. E. Cupp and Democratic strategist Steve McMahon, disagreeing Thursday over whether Sanders' little known newspaper scribblings would do harm to his presidential campaign.

Fox News and MSNBC mostly ignored the essay Thursday and Friday.

On the print side of things, the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post took a pass on the story. The New York Times didn't address the essay until late Friday afternoon.

The New York Post and the New York Daily News, on the other hand, weren't too far behind CNN, with the two newspapers publishing equally unflattering reports on the senator's 43-year-old article.

BuzzFeed and Vox turned out brief write-ups of the story Thursday afternoon.

Other media sites appeared flat-out perplexed, if not amused, with Sanders' essay.

Jezebel, which bills itself as a "feminist blog," characterized Sanders' writings as "wacky." For Slate, Sanders' remarks on sexuality and rape are "unusual."

However, the senator was not without his defenders.

Salon stayed true to its mission of defending Democratic lawmakers Friday by publishing a full-throated defense of the Democratic presidential candidate, arguing that there's no way he believes what he wrote in 1972 given his supposedly staunch pro-woman voting record as a United States senator.

On the right side of the aisle, National Review's Charles C. W. Cooke found bipartisan support for encouraging his readers to resist the temptation to "crucify" the senator.

And that's about where media's interest in Sanders ends.

The press' response to his 1972 comments has so far extended little beyond these mostly muted reactions.

The news cycle has not been flooded with calls for the senator to apologize, nor have reporters and pundits crowded together to criticize the recently announced Democratic presidential candidate.

This stands in sharp contrast to 2012, when several newsrooms appeared eager to dwell on decades-old "controversies" surrounding the Republican presidential candidates, particularly former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The Times' Gail Collins famously obsessed over a story involving Romney putting the family's dog, Seamus, in a carrier atop their station wagon for an extended road trip. The Seamus story, which dates back to 1983, equally fascinated Gawker, MSNBC and the Boston Globe.

For the Vermont senator, however, the press appears mostly uninterested in his ancient history, even it involves rape fantasies.

Nevertheless, perhaps sensing that the story has potential to do real damage to his very young White House campaign, Sanders' office responded to the story Thursday, telling CNN the senator regrets his "dumb" article.

The essay was a "dumb attempt at dark satire in an alternative publication [that] in no way reflects his views or record on women," Sanders campaign spokesman Michael Briggs told CNN. "It was intended to attack gender stereotypes of the '70s, but it looks as stupid today as it was then."