USA Today Never Labels Spitzer as Dem, But Tags Craig and Vitter

In 1,760 words, Tuesday's front page USA Today article on New York Governor Eliot Spitzer never identified him as a Democrat, not even in photo captions, though the online version was updated with his party affiliation, yet described Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter as Republicans in the first mentions of their names in the story. Here's the lead of the hard copy edition delivered to the MRC's offices Tuesday morning:
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was the brash Wall Street corruption buster who made ethics his trademark. He was on many lists of future presidential contenders. On Monday, he apologized after he was accused of meeting a high-priced prostitute in a Washington, D.C., hotel last month.
However, in the online “print edition” posting (not the updated throughout the day USAToday.com site) of the March 11 newspaper, “he” was updated to “the Democrat” so the online version begins:
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was the brash Wall Street corruption buster who made ethics his trademark. He was on many lists of future presidential contenders. On Monday, the Democrat apologized after he was accused of meeting a high-priced prostitute in a Washington, D.C., hotel last month.
In both versions of “Revelation could cost Spitzer political future: N.Y. governor apologizes after report links him to pricey prostitution ring” by Andrea Stone, the 28th paragraph clearly identified two Republicans caught up in charges of scandalous behavior:
Sen. Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, is serving out his term despite being arrested on an accusation of soliciting gay sex in an airport men's room. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. In a more direct parallel, Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, was identified last year as a client of a D.C. madam. He is still in office. "It's hard for Republicans to argue that Spitzer should go when Vitter is still in," [Larry] Sabato says.
Only hints in the hard copy edition, or the logical implication drawn by careful readers, let on that Spitzer is a Democrat, starting with the Larry Sabato quote above referring to how “it's hard for Republicans to argue that Spitzer should go when Vitter is still in."

Two paragraphs later:
Some Democrats may be hoping for a quick resignation to minimize the repercussions of the explosive disclosure, Democratic strategist Peter Fenn says. "The question is how fast do you deal with this and how fast do you get this off the front pages?" he says.
Four paragraphs after that:
Spitzer is a "super delegate" supporting Clinton against Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination.
And six paragraphs later:
The National Republican Congressional Committee called on several freshman House Democrats from New York to return campaign contributions from Spitzer.
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