On Saturday’s Fox News Watch on FNC, substitute host Eric Shawn picked up on a NewsBusters item which recounted that, after the Justice Department dropped charges against former House Republican Leader Tom DeLay, the New York Times buried the news on page A-18 while the Washington Post, by contrast, made room for the story on its front page. Shawn: "The Justice Department has dropped its corruption investigation of the former Congressman after six years. DeLay was probed primarily for his involvement with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. It hit the front pages of the Washington Post on Wednesday. Guess what, the New York Times, page A-18."
After the FNC host asked if there was a media double standard at play, regular panel member Jim Pinkerton of the New America Foundation cited Tim Graham of the Media Research Center – parent organization of NewsBusters – by name. Pinkerton: "Oh, absolutely. As Tim Graham at the Media Research Center was the first to point out, you know, look, this was huge news at the time when they thought he'd be convicted of all sorts of stuff. When he's exonerated, notice no story."
Below is a transcript of the relevant segment from the Saturday, August 21, Fox News Watch, with critical portions in bold:
ERIC SHAWN: Well, that's former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. He is off the hook. The Justice Department has dropped its corruption investigation of the former Congressman after six years. DeLay was probed primarily for his involvement with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. It hit the front pages of the Washington Post on Wednesday. Guess what, the New York Times, page A-18. Jim, double standard when it comes to covering this?
JIM PINKERTON, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Oh, absolutely. As Tim Graham at the Media Research Center was the first to point out, you know, look, this was huge news at the time when they thought he'd be convicted of all sorts of stuff. When he’s exonerated, notice no story.
SHAWN: How come?
PINKERTON: I think it's media bias, just a hunch.
SHAWN: Ellis, you’re a columnist, yeah, what?
ELLIS HENICAN, NEWSDAY COLUMNIST: Yeah, it might just be, Jim, the media. I mean, every single newspaper and television news organization I've ever been around spends a whole lot more time talking about charges than they do of acquittals. You might even ask Blago about that, in fact. His almost acquittal this week didn't get nearly the coverage of all of those tapes, all those tapes.
RICH LOWRY, NATIONAL REVIEW: That got a lot of play. That was an exception. Blago did get front-page coverage.
JUDITH MILLER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: In fact, the media were much busier covering Blago than they were Tom DeLay.
SHAWN: Blago, by the way, is on Fox News Sunday this weekend, so we can all spend some time on planet Blago.
LOWRY: He’s a very interesting media story in his own right because he's managed to make himself into a C-level celebrity, and that's enduring value no matter what happens to his legal case.
SHAWN: Does that help with the legal case?
LOWRY: It might a little bit. It might, you know, help with the jury.
PINKERTON: If you’re playing to one juror, as he seemed to be doing in the case, that guy who hung the jury on 23 of 24 counts.
LOWRY: She hung him on one – selling the Senate seat. The others were more evenly split.
SHAWN: What does it say about the confluence of the media and the criminal justice system? When you have a DeLay who was being investigated, on the front page it’s all over the place, and then it gets dropped. And when it gets dropped, you don’t hear anything about it.
LOWRY: The interesting thing about the Blago case there's a backlash in the media now against Patrick Fitzgerald-
SHAWN: Mr. Hero.
LOWRY: -and the tendency of the media is to soak up these allegations and just believe the prosecutor is always right. There's a real backlash now which is a healthy one.
HENICAN: Yeah, but remember that the drama is always the bigger story than the whimper at the end. I think that’s true in all cases.
PINKERTON: (INAUDIBLE) ...point that just shouldn't get lost. And that is, I can remember Ray Donovan, the Secretary of Labor under the Reagan administration, he was indicted or something, couple of years of trials, he was acquitted, and he just went before the cameras and said, okay, "Now where do I go to get my reputation back?"
HENICAN: Poor Blago.
SHAWN: Yeah, came down the front steps of the Bronx courthouse and no one could give the answer.