'Today' Double Standard: Sex Scandals Only Hurt Republicans

On Thursday's "Today" show when co-host Meredith Vieira asked NBC's Washington bureau chief Tim Russert if there would be any "fallout for the Democrats" from the Spitzer scandal, Russert asserted: "Probably not....that story pretty much leaves the front pages."

However, last year, when Senate Republicans David Vitter and Larry Craig were in the news for sex scandals the "Today" show wasn't so quick to let those stories rest and predicted they would have a lingering impact on the party and even conservatism as a whole. As the MRC's Tim Graham reminded NewsBusters readers earlier this week, the "Today" show, ran headlines trumpeting: "Conservative Crisis," and "Craig's Crisis: The Last Straw for the GOP?" Co-host Ann Curry used the scandals to bury Republicans on the August 29, 2007 edition of "Today":

Well let's talk about the political fallout. First it's been a rough year for the right. Let's list them. Congressman Mark Foley, conservative pastor Ted Haggard, Senator David Vitter. All involved in scandals, accusing them of inappropriate conduct. So the question's gotta be asked, why do these kinds of scandals seem to be following Republicans, lately?

Then on the August 30 show, co-host Matt Lauer asked Tom DeLay the following:

In 2006, the Republican party was also hit with distracting scandals involving Congressman Mark Foley's inappropriate e-mails to male congressional pages, and lobbyist Jack Abramoff's corruption case, that brought down several prominent Republican Congressmen. This year, the phone number of Republican senator David Vitter turned up in the records of a Washington, DC escort service, and now, recent polls show voters prefer a Democrat over a Republican by 51 to 27%, and at least one poll found the most popular choice among Republican presidential candidates is "none of the above." The question now: can any of the damage be reversed?

Fast forwarding to the current Spitzer scandal "Today" has deemed his problems will have no damaging effect on the Democratic Party as a whole. The following exchange is from the March 13th "Today" show:

VIEIRA: Let's talk very quickly about Governor Spitzer's resignation. He was a superdelegate for Senator Clinton. So she loses his vote. Beyond that, do you see any other fallout for the Democrats?

TIM RUSSERT: Probably not. There had been some references to any time there's a story about sex and men, this would focus attention on former President Bill Clinton, but I think that's probably just been a day or two story and now with the new governor of, of New York in place on Monday, that story pretty much leaves the front pages.

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.