Nets Don't Hesitate to Properly Identify Stevens as Republican

The ABC, CBS and NBC evening shows on Tuesday night properly identified indicted Senator Ted Stevens as a Republican -- though not very creatively as they all employed the identical language in describing Stevens as “the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate” -- but they weren't so eager to name the party of Democrats in trouble in recent years.

ABC anchor Charles Gibson teased World News: “Indicted. The longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate is charged with lying about a quarter million dollars' worth of gifts and renovations for his home.” Setting up the story from Jake Tapper, with “(R)” in an on-screen graphic, Gibson repeated his “the longest-serving Republican in the Senate” line.

CBS's Katie Couric referred to Stevens as “a senior Republican” before reporter Jim Axelrod recited “the longest-serving Republican Senator ever” mantra. On NBC, anchor Brian Williams announced: “Tonight, Senator Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in U.S. Senate history is under federal indictment.”

Back in March, the fifteen ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows aired in the first three days of the prostitution scandal with New York Governor Eliot Spitzer called him a Democrat just 20 percent of the time -- twice on CBS (one of those from Katie Couric), once on ABC, and never on NBC, which didn't tag him as a Democrat until the fourth day. Yet, the ABC, CBS, NBC morning and evening shows, in the days after the scandals broke involving Senators David Vitter (July of 2007) and Larry Craig (August of 2007), applied “Republican” labels on every show (100 percent).

For details, see the March 13 NewsBusters posting by the MRC's Rich Noyes. Or, the March 14 MRC CyberAlert posting, “Study: No (D) for Spitzer, Vitter and Craig Always Tagged as GOP.”

The Monday, March 31 MRC CyberAlert, “CBS Faster to Identify Party of Republican Than of Democrats,” recounted:

On Monday night [March 24], the CBS Evening News failed to identify Kwame Kilpatrick as a Democrat in reporting criminal charges filed against the Detroit Mayor, but on Friday night the same anchor, Harry Smith, used the very first word, of his introduction to a story on another politician in criminal trouble, to name the party: "Republican Congressman Rick Renzi of Arizona goes on trial next month, charged with using his office to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars. He denies breaking any laws, but the indictment spells out a string of alleged dirty deals."

A little under two years ago, then-CBS Evening News anchor Bob Schieffer avoided the party affiliation of a Democratic Congressman in introducing a Monday, May 22, 2006 story: “The government says FBI agents videotaped Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson taking $100,000 in cash from an informant and later found $90,000 in his home freezer...”

For the avoidance of naming Kilpatrick's party, see my March 24 NewsBusters item: “ABC, CBS and NBC All Fail to ID Indicted Mayor as Democrat.”

How the three broadcast newtork evening newscasts identified Stevens's party on Tuesday, July 29:

ABC's World News:

CHARLES GIBSON TEASED: Indicted. The longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate is charged with lying about a quarter million dollars' worth of gifts and renovations for his home.

GIBSON SET UP THE STORY: Well there was something of a political earthquake in the U.S. Senate today: A seven-count federal indictment was filed against Senator Ted Stevens of Alaska, the longest-serving Republican in the Senate, on charges he concealed more than a quarter million dollars in gifts and services from an oil company which helped renovate his home in Alaska.

CBS Evening News:
KATIE COURIC: Now turning to Washington where Ted Stevens of Alaska has long been one of the most powerful men in the Senate. He's a senior Republican there and for several years, as President pro tem, he was third in line to the presidency. But now as Jim Axelrod reports, Stevens is facing criminal charges.

JIM AXELROD: He's the longest-serving Republican Senator ever. Tonight, Ted Stevens is also under federal indictment...

NBC Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: He is 84 years old and from Alaska, and he just might be the single most powerful Republican member of the U.S. Senate going back a few decades. Tonight, Senator Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in U.S. Senate history is under federal indictment, accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts and favors without reporting them.
Pete Williams then provided a full story
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