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- This Week: "A Hidden Life" (60 minutes),
- Inside FRONTLINE: Recording the truth of life
- Live Discussion: Chat with producer Rachel Dretzin, Wed., Nov. 15, at 11am ET

This election season, the story of Florida's Republican Representative Mark Foley's e-mails to underage male interns dominated the headlines for a time. A few years ago, the news was about New Jersey's Democratic governor offering favors to a male sexual partner.

In FRONTLINE's program this Tuesday, we take a closer look at another man in power forced to resign in a scandal that mixed sexual conduct, sexual identity, and charges of abuse of office. "A Hidden Life" explores what happened to Jim West, the former mayor of Spokane, who was once the most important Republican politician in the state of Washington.

West's fall from grace was the result of a local newspaper's aggressive reporting on his private life. The newspaper, The Spokesman-Review, used a controversial sting operation to unmask the mayor who regularly visited a gay Web site to meet young, but not underage, men. At least one sexual encounter occurred, and offers were made of unpaid internships in the mayor's office which the newspaper considered an abuse of office.

However, FRONTLINE producers Rachel Dretzin and Barak Goodman look beyond the headlines to find a story that is much less clear than it initially seemed. With access to all sides of the story, and a close reading of the mayor's Internet chat transcripts and other documents, "A Hidden Life" examines a man's struggle for sexual identity, a newspaper's controversial decision to conduct the sting operation, and the growing tension between a politician's private life and the public's right to know in an age of online chat and instant messaging.

And, this report also leaves a larger question lingering in the background: how open can politicians be about their sexual identity? In an age when TV programs and movies more openly portray the gay lifestyle, staying in the closet still seems necessary to many gays if they want to serve in the military, if they want to teach, and, in a few states, if they want to adopt children. And, every time it's been put to a vote, there's been a widespread rejection of the idea of 'gay' marriage. So perhaps it is not surprising that politicians and others in the public eye who are gay are wary of coming out, even if it means living with the pain and hypocrisy that can accompany a hidden life.

We hope you will join us this Tuesday, and if you miss the broadcast of "A Hidden Life," you can easily watch it on our Web site, where you will also find the extended interviews with Jim West and the journalists who investigated him - and much more. And, join the discussion about this report at

Louis Wiley, Jr.
Executive Editor


+ Live Online Discussion on ...

Producer Rachel Dretzin will be online this Wednesday, Nov. 15, at 11am ET, to discuss "A Hidden Life."

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