Dismissal of DeLay Charge Barely Touched by ABC and NBC

<img vspace="0" hspace="0" border="0" align="right" src="/media/2005-12-05-ABCWNTVargas.jpg" />Back on September 28, when a county grand jury in Texas indicted then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on a conspiracy charge related to local Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle’s contention DeLay had participated in putting corporate money into Texas campaigns, the ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts all led with the development and aired at least two segments each. Earle subsequently got another grand jury to deliver a money laundering indictment. But on Monday night, after a Texas judge dismissed that original conspiracy indictment which generate so much media attention, ABC gave it a piddling 16 seconds and NBC a mere 20 seconds with only CBS showing some consistency by devoting significant time -- but not the lead story (CBS led with the Hussein trial).<br /><br />ABC and NBC characterized the dismissed charge as the “less serious” one, but CBS called the remaining charge the “more difficult to prove.” ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas related how “a judge today refused to dismiss money laundering charges against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. At the same time, the judge dismissed a less-serious charge of conspiracy.” NBC anchor Brian Williams relayed how “a judge dismissed a conspiracy charge against him but refused to throw out more serious charges of money laundering.” CBS’s Gloria Borger, however, reported that DeLay’s “office was claiming that this was a victory and with some very good reason. Half the charges were thrown out. Money laundering is much more difficult to prove.” (Transcripts follow.)<br /><br />
<!--break-->For a full rundown of the top of the newscast coverage of the Wednesday, September 28 ABC, CBS and NBC evening newscasts, <a href="http://newsbusters.org/node/1545">check my NewsBusters article</a>. <br /><br />Transcripts of the December 5 coverage:<br /><br /><b># ABC’s <i>World News Tonight</i></b>, 16 seconds from anchor Elizabeth Vargas: “In Austin, Texas, a judge today refused to dismiss money laundering charges against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. At the same time, the judge dismissed a less-serious charge of conspiracy. The case will now move toward trial next year. DeLay was forced to vacate the House leadership position when he was indicted.”<br /><br /><br /><b># <i>NBC’s Nightly News</i></b>, 20 seconds from anchor Brian Williams: “An important day in court for former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay today and the results were mixed. A judge dismissed a conspiracy charge against him but refused to throw out more serious charges of money laundering. DeLay had hoped to have all the charges dismissed so he could reclaim his leadership post. He was required to step down when he was indicted back in September.”<br /><br /><br /><b># <i>CBS Evening News</i></b>. Anchor Bob Schieffer reported: “There's a new development tonight in the Tom DeLay case. A Texas judge threw out charges that DeLay conspired with others to violate election laws. But the judge upheld a charge that DeLay and two fundraisers illegally funneled $190,000 from corporations to Texas Republicans. We want to bring in our political correspondent Gloria Borger now in Washington. Gloria, he still faces some problems, does he not?”<br /><br />Borger, from Capitol Hill: “Yes, Tom DeLay does have some problems. Legally, Bob, his office was claiming that this was a victory and with some very good reason. Half the charges were thrown out. Money laundering is much more difficult to prove. But politically, he does have some tremendous problems. He wanted to come back to Congress in January, re-take his job as Majority Leader. You are not allowed to serve in the leadership if you’re under indictment. An instead, he's going to be going to trial.”<br /><br />Schieffer: “Well, I think that is the bottom line, isn't it? He is going to go to trial. This case is not going to be thrown out.”<br /><br />Borger: “This case is not going to be thrown out. And the Republicans and the rank and file in the House that I speak with are getting a little restless about this. There are some of them who say that perhaps Tom DeLay should never return as Majority Leader. They’re worried that these ethics charges could tarnish all of them and they're looking to their re-election in the 2006 midterms.”<br /><br />Schieffer: “So Congress will re-start in January and without Tom DeLay, okay. Thank you very much, Gloria.”

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center