Did the media spoil Ricky Hollywood?

Ed linked Bristol Palin’s classy response to Levi Johnston’s apology last night, but in Allahpundit’s absence, I feel like we need to expand upon Johnston’s retraction.

It’s been a long time since we met Sex on Skates, as he came to be known before his appearance with Bristol at the Republican National Convention. He, of course, later became Stab in the Back on Skates, and later, Stab in the Back Sans Pants.

He is one of my least favorite media/political personalities of the last two years, coming in slightly behind the jerk who taped Erin Andrews. But while Levi certainly must take responsibility for being a giant arse, as he seems to want to do now, it is partly the media that’s to blame for giving him the platform from which to embarrass himself, his son, the mother of his child and her family.

The line from Sarah Palin critics is always that she gave him the platform when she brought him to the RNC in 2008. It was indeed Levi’s relationship with the Palin family that brought him into the spotlight, but it was his willingness to confirm every single anti-Palin narrative with a-tad-too-perfect anecdotes that kept him there.

As if reading his talking points from Andrew Sullivan’s blog, Levi told stories of the fake adoption of Tripp that Palin cooked up to protect her political career while he cast himself as a willing and reliable father figure to his future son. He blew the cover on Palin’s seemingly genuine affection for her son Trig, claiming she frequently called him “retarded.” He tantalized the CBS morning show and Vanity Fair with promises of more dirty secrets and, of course, dirty pictures of himself.

The media granted him a paradoxical position as a virtually unimpeachable source on one of the nation’s most important political figures whose questionable life decisions simultaneously confirmed the essential white-trashiness they suspected in Gov. Palin and her connections. The media didn’t care to reconcile the contradiction. He was either an upstanding truth-teller warning the world of this dangerous Alaskan Machiavelli or he was confirmation that Washington was narrowly delivered from this red-state rube would have brought all her Oxy-dealing relations to the capital. He couldn’t be both.

As I once told a friend in the media, a good rule of thumb is probably that a source’s credibility is inversely proportional to the number of times he’s shown his dong in public. And, that’s if you leave aside all the obvious reasons Levi Johnston had to lie about the Palins— hurt feelings over a break-up, lots of money in endorsement deals, and the ever-increasing attention he got every time he spoke up.

I know we play the “imagine” game a lot as conservatives, but imagine a scenario in which an ex-fiance of Chelsea Clinton’s telling tales on “life inside the Clinton family” would have gotten a slot on CNN or CBS at all, much less without a discussion of what the ex stood to gain from said tales. Al Gore’s son’s arrest on drug charges was barely mentioned, but rumors of exactly how much sex a teenage daughter of a former candidate may or may not have had and where? That was news. A former Democratic VP candidate’s life revealed to be utterly fraudulent in the wake of a sordid affair with a loopy cinematographer while his wife had cancer? Not really worth covering anymore— he’s washed up, not a candidate, hardly worth talking about. But the sex-ed policy preferences of a former Republican VP candidate’s daughter working to raise a baby as a single mom should be scrutinized with all the fact-checking skills we can muster!

In the end, it’s too bad for everyone involved that Sex on Skates skated by for this long. Sarah Palin and Bristol have been more than gracious to him in their public statements, not because they care about the p.r., but because they care about their family. It’s good to see this young man finally be gracious in return. It would be good for Levi, Tripp, and other young people prone to make big mistakes in the pursuit of money and fame to see the media cover Levi’s good behavior as diligently as it covered his bad.

I wish the best for Bristol and Levi as they try to repair a relationship that will be so important to their son. I wish Andrew Sullivan the best as he tries to track down the dirty snow-machining money that bought Levi’s silence.

Levi’s apology, in full:

“Last year, after Bristol and I broke up, I was unhappy and a little angry. Unfortunately, against my better judgment, I publicly said things about the Palins that were not completely true,” he tells PEOPLE exclusively. “I have already privately apologized to Todd and Sarah. Since my statements were public, I owe it to the Palins to publicly apologize.”

“So to the Palin family in general and to Sarah Palin in particular, please accept my regrets and forgive my youthful indiscretion,” Johnston says in the statement. “I hope one day to restore your trust.”