ABC Finally IDs Spitzer as Democrat, NBC Fails to for Third Night

For the third evening in a row Wednesday, the NBC Nightly News refused to identify Eliot Spitzer as a Democrat, but after ABC's World News failed to cite his party affiliation on Monday and Tuesday night when Elizabeth Vargas anchored, on Wednesday evening substitute anchor George Stephanopoulos finally properly tagged him: “The Democrat resigned today just two days after reports that he patronized a high-priced prostitution service.”

In contrast, fill-in NBC Nightly News anchor Ann Curry on Wednesday teased news about “New York's crusading Governor” and then led her broadcast sans any party identification:


Good evening. I'm Ann Curry, in for Brian Williams tonight. Today New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who painted himself as a champion of ethics and moral conviction, resigned just two days after the bombshell news linking him to a prostitution ring. NBC's Mike Taibbi now joins us with more on this breathtaking fall from power. Mike?

Taibbi, just as on Monday and Tuesday, avoided informing viewers of Spitzer's party.

CBS anchor Katie Couric also named Spitzer's party on Wednesday's CBS Evening News -- describing “a dramatic end to the political career of a man who was once one of the Democratic Party's rising stars” -- after CBS was the only broadcast network evening newscast to have done so on Monday, the day news of his dalliance with a prostitute broke.

(On Wednesday morning, for the second day since the revelation, the broadcast network morning shows all failed to utter the word “Democrat” in relation to Spitzer. As on Tuesday, on CBS's Early Show the only indication of Spitzer's party came from a “(D)” on screen by his name for a few seconds, the MRC's Kyle Drennen informed me. ABC's Good Morning America, the MRC's Justin McCarthy observed, re-ran the Brian Ross story from the night before in which Congressman Peter King was identified on screen as a Republican and Ross noted how “Republicans in the state capital...are threatening to begin impeachment proceedings unless Spitzer is out by the end of the day today.”

In an earlier NewsBusters posting, the MRC's Geoff Dickens recounted how “in a total of seven Spitzer-related segments on Wednesday's Today show and one interview with Barack Obama, where the scandal was mentioned, not one anchor, reporter, guest, talking head or on-screen graphic mentioned Spitzer's party affiliation.” However, matching Tuesday's NBC's Nightly News, “the Today show graphics department did take time to place an '(R)' next to Rep. Peter King and New York state Rep. Joe Tedisco.”)

My March 11 NewsBusters posting, “For Second Night, ABC and NBC Refuse to Utter Spitzer's Party ID,” reported:

Just as occurred Monday night, viewers of Tuesday's ABC and NBC evening newscasts never heard the word "Democrat" applied to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, nor did they even put a "(D)" on screen by his name as ABC did briefly Monday. CBS didn't announce his party either on Tuesday night, but Katie Couric had done so Monday night. The ABC and NBC newscasts, however, did put "(R)" on screen over soundbites from Republicans and NBC's Mike Taibbi twice referred to the reaction from "Republican" politicians.

Fill-in ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas avoided any party tag: "New York's Governor, Eliot Spitzer, spent most of the day today huddled behind closed doors debating whether to resign after being linked to a prostitution ring." On NBC, substitute anchor Ann Curry led: "Tonight, the investigation of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace is broadening..."

Viewers could only figure out Spitzer's party by implication as both shows aired a soundbite from Republican Congressman Peter King with an "(R)" on screen. ABC's Brian Ross led into it by referring to how Spitzer will soon "end what even his political enemies called a once-brilliant career." NBC's Taibbi cited King's party as he described "Republicans threatening impeachment if he doesn't resign." Before video of State Rep. James Tedisco with an "(R-NY)" on screen, Taibbi also noted how "some Republicans in Albany would welcome" the move up by Lieutenant Governor David Paterson....

My March 10 NewsBusters item, “'Straight Arrow' Governor 'Eliot Ness' Spitzer (?-NY),” began:


Incredibly, in lead stories Monday night about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer being linked to a prostitution ring, neither ABC's World News nor the NBC Nightly News verbally identified Spitzer's political party. Must mean he's a liberal Democrat -- and he is. CBS anchor Katie Couric, however, managed to squeeze in a mention of his party. Last August when news of Larry Craig's arrest broke, both ABC and NBC stressed his GOP affiliation....

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth provided me with excerpts from the Wednesday, March 12 newscasts:

ABC's World News:


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Good evening. New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace has been far and fast, and it may not be over. The Democrat resigned today just two days after reports that he patronized a high-priced prostitution service. But in these last few days of a political career that took off when he prosecuted corrupt corporate officials, the tables have been turned. Spitzer and his lawyers are now trying to convince prosecutors not to press charges. Our chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, is here with more.

CBS Evening News:


KATIE COURIC: Good evening, everyone. Well, the pressure just kept building on Eliot Spitzer since the news broke that he'd been patronizing a prostitute. And today he resigned as Governor of New York, a dramatic end to the political career of a man who was once one of the Democratic Party's rising stars. Here's our national correspondent, Byron Pitts.

...

COURIC, INTRODUCING A LATER STORY: In a later story: When he steps down Monday, Spitzer, a supporter of Hillary Clinton, will no longer qualify as a Democratic super-delegate.

NBC Nightly News:


ANN CURRY: Good evening. I'm Ann Curry, in for Brian Williams tonight. Today New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who painted himself as a champion of ethics and moral conviction, resigned just two days after the bombshell news linking him to a prostitution ring. NBC's Mike Taibbi now joins us with more on this breathtaking fall from power. Mike?

MIKE TAIBBI: Breathtaking is right, Ann. You know, there was still speculation early today that the Governor might try to hold on to his job or would only quit once he cut a deal for no criminal charges. In the end, it was neither, just a sad end to this part of the story and to a political career. Ducking past a scrum of cameras and questions, watched from helicopters above for the 30-minute, 40-block drive to his office, Eliot Spitzer, his wife Silda again standing with him, said it was over....

Update 11:21 | Matthew Sheffield. Ace links in to this post and adds a very good point about how liberal journalists treats media critics on the left with much greater deference than those on the right:

When the left makes an issue of media failings, the MSM falls over itself to either 1) correct those alleged failings or 2) defend themselves and claim they're doing their jobs just fine.

Steven Colbert poked fun at the media for being (hah!) lapdogs for Bush. They all vowed to be tougher and stop giving him the free pass he'd enjoyed for five years. SNL, which is basically just Newsweek's Conventional Wisdom Watch with recurring characters, knocked the media for fawning over Barack Obama. Suddenly they decided they had to start actually covering Obama like a political candidate rather than the Risen Christ.

On the right, we've been knocking the "Obamessiah" goofery for a frigging year. Did anyone notice? Nope. It took the left-wing crew at SNL to get the media's attention.

They don't even bother responding to us on the right, even in a clear-cut and provable systemic and deliberate case of a bias such as this. They don't even bother defending themselves. They just ignore us. Because they're not even reading us and even if they did, what we think just doesn't matter.

When various leftist bloggers attack MSM figures, the response is usually fairly immediate. Joe Klein spent weeks defending himself from lefty attacks; Paul Krugman just posted a blog entry defending himself against the charge he had dared to deny the divinity of Barack Obama.

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