The resignation of Mississippi Senator Trent Lott from his position as Majority Leader was an event unprecedented in the history of the US Senate. It occurred precipitously, in the wake of remarks he had made at an event where no one expected controversy--the 100th birthday party of the Senate's oldest member, South Carolina Senator Strom Thurmond. Lott's remarks, in which he praised Thurmond's 1948 run for the Presidency as the candidate of the segregationist Dixiecrat Party, only gradually sparked a firestorm, however. This case tells the story of how the controversy grew, with particular emphasis on the role of non-traditional media-specifically on the role of those political writers who distributed their views through "web logs". The case describes how the Lott story spread from the keyboards of such "bloggers" to the more mainstream print and television press--to the point at which public pressure culminated in Lott's resignation from the Senate leadership.
This case allows for discussion of the evolution of the press and of the life-cycle of what some have termed press feeding frenzies, wherein the fate of major public officials or policy issues seemingly follows a sort of dramatic script, as they take center stage in the reporting of the moment. The case can be used either by those with a special interest in the way in which public officials deal with the press, or by those with a special interest in the internal dynamics of the mass media.