No Party ID on ABC for Imprisoned Jefferson; CBS Skips Sentencing

Former Congressman William Jefferson, the New Orleans Democrat with bribery cash hidden in his freezer, was sentenced Friday to 13 years in prison, the longest-ever for a Member of Congress on a corruption charge -- yet the CBS Evening News didn't utter a word about it, just as that newscast ignored his August conviction, while ABC's World News didn't bother to mention his party affiliation.  

NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams noted Jefferson's party in this short item: “Former Louisiana Democratic Congressman William Jefferson made headlines a while back when the FBI found $90,000 in cash hidden in his freezer. Today, he was sentenced to 13 years in prison for taking bribes.”

ABC's Charles Gibson, however, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth noticed, failed to identify Jefferson as a Democrat: “Former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson has been sentenced to 13 years in prison for his conviction on federal bribery charges. Authorities found $90,000 wrapped in foil in Jefferson’s freezer, part of the half million dollars prosecutors say he received for using his influence to broker business deals in Africa.”

This reticence to name Jefferson's party isn't anything new.

From August 6, “Nets Take Turns Failing to ID Convicted Democrat William Jefferson

On Thursday, all three network morning news programs reported the conviction of former Louisiana Congressman William Jefferson on bribery charges, but only NBC’s Today identified him as a Democrat. CBS’s Early Show and ABC’s Good Morning America simply referred to him as a “former Congressman.”

From August 5, “After Guilty Verdicts, NBC Fails to ID Jefferson's Party Affiliation

Wednesday's NBC Nightly News devoted a full minute to the guilty convictions for bribery, racketeering and wire fraud against former nine-term Louisiana Democratic Congressman William Jefferson, but failed to name his political party.

ABC's Charles Gibson mentioned Jefferson's party in a brief World News item. The CBS Evening News didn't air anything about Jefferson's convictions which were announced just under an hour before the 6:30 PM EDT feeds of the newscasts shown in the eastern and central time zones, though Couric did manage to highlight how “Giants quarterback Eli Manning agreed today to a six-year deal for $97 million, making him the highest-paid player ever in the NFL.”

From May 22, 2006, “Borger Spins Democrat's Corruption Into Bad News for Both Parties

Gloria Borger concluded her Monday CBS Evening News story on the FBI's weekend confiscation of cash from a freezer in Louisiana Democratic Congressman William Jefferson's home by declaring a pox on both parties: “At a time when 77 percent of the American public believes that all members of Congress take bribes, Congressman Jefferson's troubles help no one in either party.”

Unlike ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas and NBC anchor Campbell Brown who noted Jefferson's party affiliation in their story introductions, CBS's Bob Schieffer managed to set up Borger's report without identifying Jefferson's party: “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.” Borger did subsequently identify Jefferson as a Democrat.

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