|Politician's biography reveals long 'secret' affair|
| [30.08.2007, 11:46pm, Thu. GMT]|
|Two new biographies of a former top Labour Party politician, who went on to head Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), shed interesting light not just on the politician's own life, but on how the Norwegian media functions as well. Einar Førde, who died of cancer in 2004 at the age of 61, was a legend of sorts within Norway's Labour Party. He was attached to its radical faction, was a long-time member of Parliament and rose to be both a government minister and, ultimately, the powerful position of kringkastingssjef: boss of Norway's equivalent of the BBC. Førde was also a brash, tough-talking and vastly self-assured man who seemed to enjoy nurturing a reputation for womanizing, while also reportedly worrying that his extra-marital affairs limited his career advancement.Nor did they mention that Førde's wife at the time knew about the affair, apparently tolerated it and even allowed Førde to tend to his mistress when she fell terminally ill with cancer. "I have the impression it (the affair) was a public secret," the son of Førde's mistress, Gunn Vigdis Olsen-Hagen, told newspaper VG. She died of cancer, in 1989.|
Extra-marital affairs among Norwegian politicians, it emerges, aren't covered by the media in Norway, in contrast to the situation in many other countries. "One of the reasons is that Norwegian society is so tolerant that people tolerate that affairs go on," VG's political editor Olav Versto told his own paper on Tuesday. "That's reflected in the media."
One of Førde's biographies, written by journalist Frank Rossavik, reports that Førde himself was worried after the American politician Gary Hart withdrew from a US presidential race because of his own romantic affairs. Førde feared that would prompt Norwegian media to begin to cover such affairs as well, "and there would be a whole stream" of such stories about him.
Versto claimed Førde needn't have worried. Extra-marital affairs "still aren't covered," 20 years after Førde carried on with his. Nor does Versto think that Rossavik's coverage of the affair, which had some political consequences, will alter Norwegian media coverage of politicians' private lives.
"This is an historic account, and we've had some of those earlier," he said.
Gunnar Berge, a Labour Party colleague of Førde's who headed the Norwegian Nobel Committee for a time, also said Førde needn't have worried that his affairs would hurt his career. "Such things were never an issue when positions were up for appointment," Berge told VG.
Rossavik, for his part, said he thought it was important to include Førde's relationship with Olsen-Hagen in his book because she "was such an important person for Førde for so many years. The relationship was known both in political circles and in their families. It would have been unreasonable to leave her out."
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