With her estranged husband facing impeachment proceedings in the South Carolina legislature, still First Lady of South Carolina Jenny Sanford proved over the weekend that her status as media love object is as exalted as ever. “From Shadow to Limelight,” Robbie Brown’s front-page profile in Saturday’s NYT, enumerates the ways she’s turning herself into the best-known Jenny brand since Jenny Craig: trademarking her name to sell clothing, mugs, and other merchandise; managing her own “privately financed” website; appearing among Barbara Walters’ 10 Most Fascinating People of 2009; endorsing a gubernatorial candidate to succeed the disgraced Mark; and of course writing The Book, whose title, “Staying True,” begs all the right questions.
What’s not quite right about the profile is its premise that somehow Jenny Sanford, shy thing that she is, has gradually emerged into the media glare, embracing her unsought celebrity almost against her will–“a person who is growing more comfortable as a headline maker.” But as Marie Griffith shows in her article on L’Affaire Sanford in the latest Religion in the News, Jenny has been on top of the game from the outset. She was conspicuous by her absence from her husband’s side at his confessional press conference, and then conspicuous by her adroit self-presentation as the scorned but unbowed Christian wife and mother. If “Jenny Sanford” were a 60-year-old movie, Joan Crawford would be cast in the title role–but she wouldn’t be playing it any better than the original.