Major Networks Avoid Dem Senators' Countrywide Loan Scandals

As we've noted at NewsBusters, there's been scant coverage of a new scandal involving Sens. Chris Dodd (Conn.) and Kent Conrad (N.D.). Both senators chair committees with oversight of the financial industry and Dodd is behind a bailout package for mortgage lender Countrywide. Both senators got "VIP" treatment from Countrywide Financial for refinancing agreements on their respective mortgages.So today I thought I'd check our internal records at the MRC and the transcripts at Nexis to see what sort of coverage the three broadcast networks have devoted to this story. What I found was a big fat zero.Countrywide did, however, pop up three times on NBC newscasts between the beginning of June and today. All three stories were about celebrity Ed McMahon's foreclosure woes.Earlier this month CBS's Katie Couric and ABC's Jake Tapper did touch on another prominent Democrat with Countrywide ties, Jim Johnson, who briefly headed Barack Obama's vice presidential running mate selection team.For their parts, Fox News Channel and CNN have covered the story. Below is a CNN transcript of a segment from the June 17 "The Situation Room":

WOLF BLITZER: On Capitol Hill, just a short while ago, Senator Chris Dodd spoke out about the controversy surrounding a loan he got from Country Wide Financial Corporation. Dodd is the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee that oversees the banking and mortgage industry, and he reportedly got a cut-rate deal from Country Wide not available to the general public. It was reported last week that the CEO of Country Wide directed staffers to give lower interest rates and points to influential people. Kate Bolduan is watching this story on Capitol Hill. And Senator Dodd came out swinging today, defending himself. What did he say?KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He sure did, Wolf. Well, Senator Chris Dodd, he flatly denies he did anything wrong. He did face some tough questions today, though, regarding preferential loans he received through Country Wide Financial, but Senator Dodd said he never asked for and never expected any special treatment.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. CHRIS DODD (D), BANKING CMTE. CHAIRMAN: As a member of the United States Senate over these many years, the idea of asking for seeking any kind of financial preference whether it's in home mortgages or anything else is something I completely reject in any offer that ever would be made I would terminate immediately any suggestion of it. (END VIDEO CLIP)BOLDUAN: According to Portfolio.com, the Connecticut senator received two loans from Country Wide back in 2003, one for $563,000 to refinance his Washington, D.C. townhouse, the second for $275,000 to refinance a home in Connecticut. And Portfolio reports that Country Wide waived $2,700 in costs and reduced the interest rate, which would have saved the senator $75,000 over the life of the loan. Now, all of this is allegedly part of a VIP program within Country Wide Financial. Senator Dodd says that he was told and did know he was being put into this VIP program, but he says he thought it was simply a courtesy for having existing mortgages with Country Wide, having an existing relationship with Country Wide. Now, Democratic Senator Kent Conrad, he also received some special loans through Country Wide, and he also vehemently denies that he had any knowledge of special treatment of these special deals and he has offered to donate the money that he allegedly saved. Now, in the face of this, in light of all this, Wolf, House Republicans are calling for an investigation into these loans. Because they say they want to find out exactly what happened here. And the Senate Ethics Committee chair today strongly suggested that their committee would do exactly that. They'd be looking into it, Wolf. BLITZER: All right, we'll see what happens. Thanks very much, Kate, for that.
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters