Newsom-Guilfoyle Split: New PR Strategy to be Launched?

by Randy Shaw on January 6, 2005


While Beyond Chron has known for months that Mayor Newsom was heading for a divorce, we are not in the business of outing people’s private lives. But Newsom’s ongoing use of his wife for political and public relations purposes—the photos in Harper’s Bazaar, the attempt to replicate Jack and Jackie in a modern version of Camelot, the Chronicle’s contrast of the married Newsom with the single “sleeps on a futon” Gonzalez-is troubling. Will the media continue to use Newsom’s marital status to advance his political career, and are a batch of “America’s Most Eligible Bachelor” stories already being prepared?

It is fair to say that no political couple in America not running for office was photographed together more in 2004 than Gavin Newsom and Kimberly Guilfoyle. The couple was a staple of the society pages, and was featured in the notorious multi-page spread in Harper’s Bazaar. The marriage between a young mayor of a hip city and an attractive attorney turned legal commentator was a match made in public relations heaven.

During the Newsom-Gonzalez mayoral runoff, the Chronicle contrasted the married (and hence more stable) Newsom with the single and partner-less Gonzalez. Voters want their politicians to be in stable relationships, which is why the only major politician lacking such-New York City’s longtime Mayor Ed Koch-always had a woman by his side when running for election.

Newsom’s marriage to Guilfoyle did not sway the outcome of the mayor’s race, but Harper’s Bazaar would not have come calling to photograph an unmarried mayor.

Newsom and Guilfoyle both benefited from the publicity their marriage generated. She likely benefited much more, as it is hard to imagine her in her current television career had she not married into the orbit of the socially prominent Getty family.

We learned well after Jack Kennedy’s assassination that he was a serial womanizer whose life with Jackie may have been Camelot for him, but a living hell for her. But the Kennedys were hip while Dick and Pat Nixon were old-fashioned, and America still idealizes Jack Kennedy, reality notwithstanding.

In its November 21, 2004 Newsom interview, Chronicle columnists Matier & Ross asked: How’s the marriage going — and what about those rumors of a divorce?

Newsom: Yeah, I heard that my wife (Kimberly Guilfoyle Newsom) apparently filed divorce papers in Redwood City (laughs). So, we called down to find out. I have no idea how that one started.

But seriously, this living on different sides of the continent has taken a huge toll personally. The transcontinental marriage is tough — the only godsend is that we don’t have kids. You give up your life in the traditional sense.

Well, I know how those rumors got started and so did Matier & Ross. But the Mayor’s flat-out denial put an end to the inquiry.
Some mayoral critics see the divorce announcement as confirmation of a “sham” marriage made for mutual career advancement. But the truth is that only the two involved really know what their relationship was about, and it is hard to argue with Newsom that transcontinental relationships take a huge toll.

The question now is how soon the media, which promoted the Newsom-Guilfoyle marriage as part of its “new generation of political leadership” theme, will resume linking the mayor’s marital status to his political career. It should happen quickly, with a new public image for the Mayor: the nation’s most eligible bachelor.

I can see it now: Newsom on the cover of People magazine as one of its 25 most beautiful singles, and new profiles in the Chronicle and national publications on combining politics with the dating scene. We can read how women are vying to include Newsom on their Friendster rosters, and the Chronicle’s Leah Garchik—a great journalist relegated to covering the society scene-will keep readers posted on who was on the mayor’s arm at the opera last night.

The options for promoting Newsom’s new single status are endless, and our daily media is likely to leave no stone unturned.

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