ABC, NBC Omit Blagojevich's Party ID; CBS: Is Sentence 'Too High'?

ABC, NBC, and CBS all reported on former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich receiving a 14-year prison sentence for corruption on their evening news programs on Wednesday and their morning shows on Thursday, but only CBS's Early Show gave his Democratic affiliation. ABC devoted only 3 news briefs total to the conviction, while NBC Nightly News and The Early Show aired full reports.

News anchor Jeff Glor introduced correspondent Michelle Miller's report on the CBS morning program at the bottom of the 7 am Eastern hour by stating that "Rod Blagojevich is paying a very high price for corruption. Is it too high? In Chicago Wednesday, a judge sentenced the former Illinois governor to 14 years in prison"

Miller led by noting that the "once flamboyant fallen governor described to reporters in 50 seconds- and no more- what's next for him and his family....The Democrat was convicted on 18 counts of corruption, largely due to profanity-laced federal wiretaps that caught him offering political favors in return for financial gain." At the end of her report, she highlighted how "Blagojevich narrowly escaped the prosecution's request for 15 to 20 years. Still, his 14-year sentence is one of the longest for any politician in state history."

About a half hour earlier, ABC's Josh Elliot gave the only news brief on the politician's sentencing on Good Morning America:

JOSH ELLIOTT: Meanwhile, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich will begin serving his prison sentence in February. Despite a long series of apologies, a federal judge sentenced him Wednesday to 14 years behind bars for corruption, for trying to sell President Obama's vacant senate seat to the highest bidder. The judge said Blagojevich has ripped apart the fabric of faith in government.

NBC's Savannah Guthrie gave two news briefs on the Today show during the 7 am Eastern half hour and just after the top of the 9 am Eastern hour, but like Elliott, didn't give Blagojevich's party ID.

On Wednesday evening, Ron Allen noted how the disgraced former governor "seemed to revel in the spotlight, appearing in a commercial, even on reality TV" during his report on NBC Nightly News. But, like his colleague Guthrie, he didn't once mention that Blagojevich is a Democrat. ABC's World News and CBS Evening News did the same during their news briefs on the sentencing.

The Big Three networks have consistently downplayed the convict's party ID as they reported on his trial. Back in June 2011, their morning shows all left out his Democratic affiliation after a jury convicted him on 18 charges.

The transcripts of ABC, NBC, and CBS's coverage of Rod Blagojevic's conviction on the Wednesday evening news programs and their Thursday morning shows, excluding Thursday's Good Morning America, which is above:

BRIAN WILLIAMS (from Wednesday's NBC Nightly News): This was sentencing day today for former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. He will be joining a long line of former Illinois governors who've gone behind bars. His sentence: 14 years. His demeanor much different from the time of his initial arrest on corruption charges almost three years ago now.

Our report tonight from NBC's Ron Allen in Chicago.

RON ALLEN (voice-over): Rod Blagojevich left federal court a disgraced man, headed for 14 years in federal prison, convicted of 17 counts of bribery and attempted extortion, including, most notoriously, trying to cash in, as governor, by attempting to sell an appointment to President Obama's old senate seat.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH (from wiretap recording): I got this thing and it's [expletive deleted] golden. And I'm just not giving it up for [expletive] nothing.

ALLEN: When federal agents arrested Blagojevich in 2008, he defiantly asked, is this a joke? In all the time since, he has not apologized until today. 'I was the governor and I should have known better, and I am just so incredibly sorry,' he told Judge James Zagel, adding, 'I would hope you could find some mercy.' But the judge scolded Blagojevich for abusing the public trust. 'The fabric of Illinois is torn, disfigured. You did that damage,' he said.

PATRICK FITZGERALD, U.S. ATTORNEY, NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS: If there's a public official out there who's thinking about committing a crime- boy, they ought to be thinking twice.

ALLEN: For the past three years, the man who became known as 'Blago,' at times, seemed to revel in the spotlight, appearing in a commercial-

UNIDENTIFIED MAN 1: Rod Blagojevich, how are you?

ALLEN: Even on reality TV. Today, as he left court, the former governor tried to summon some of that bravado.


BLAGOJEVICH: We're going to keep fighting on through this adversity, and see you soon.

ALLEN: He has until February to report to prison. He will become the fourth Illinois governor in the last four decades to do time. Ron Allen, NBC News, Chicago.

DAVID MUIR (from Wednesday's World News on ABC): Back in this country tonight, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in federal prison today, punishment for 18 convictions on corruption charges, including trying to sell President Obama's open senate seat for cash and political favors. He won't be eligible for early release until he serves at least 12 years. And by the way, he's the second Illinois governor in a row to land behind bars

SCOTT PELLEY (from Wednesday's CBS Evening News): In Chicago today, [former] Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison for corruption, including trying to sell the Senate seat Barack Obama vacated when he became president. Blagojevich is the second Illinois governor in a row to be sent to prison. George Ryan is serving six and a half years, also for corruption.

JEFF GLOR (from Thursday's Early Show on CBS): Rod Blagojevich is paying a very high price for corruption. Is it too high? In Chicago Wednesday, a judge sentenced the former Illinois governor to 14 years in prison, and Michelle Miller has more on that.

MICHELLE MILLER (voice-over): The once flamboyant fallen governor described to reporters in 50 seconds- and no more- what's next for him and his family.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH, FORMER GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS: This is a time for me to be strong for my children- be strong for Patty- and this is also a time for Patty and me to get home, so we can explain to our kids, our babies Annie and Amy, what happened, what all this means, and where we're going from here.

PATRICK FITZGERALD, U.S. ATTORNEY: Today's sentence of 14 years on former Governor Blagojevich sends a strong message that the public has had enough, and judges have had enough. This needs to stop.

MILLER: The Democrat was convicted on 18 counts of corruption, largely due to profanity-laced federal wiretaps that caught him offering political favors in return for financial gain.

BLAGOJEVICH (from wiretap recording): I got this thing and it's [expletive deleted] golden.

MILLER: The most notorious recording seemed to implicate Blagojevich offering to sell the senate seat vacated by newly-elected President Barack Obama.

BLAGOJEVICH (from December 30, 2008 press conference): I am appointing Roland Burris as the next-

MILLER: Blagojevich appointed Roland Burris, the virtually unknown former Illinois attorney general, to the seat, actions his defense claimed were nothing more than political jockeying, because no money had been exchanged. Then, Blagojevich launched an all-out media offensive, proclaiming his innocence. In the end, jurors said he should have known better.

JAMES MATSUMOTO, FORMER JURY FOREMAN: I think anybody that grew up in Illinois, especially a politician, and a lawyer, knows what is legal and what is not legal in campaign financing, and I know he knew that he was doing wrong.

MILLER: Blagojevich narrowly escaped the prosecution's request for 15 to 20 years. Still, his 14-year sentence is one of the longest for any politician in state history. Michelle Miller, CBS News, New York.

 

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE (from 7 am Eastern half hour of Thursday's Today show on NBC): Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has few days of freedom left. Despite a final plea for mercy, a federal judge sentenced Blagojevich to 14 years in prison. He's been ordered to surrender to police on February 16th but he can still appeal. Blagojevich's sentence is the longest ever given to a former governor in Illinois state history.

 

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE (from top of 9 am Eastern hour of Thursday's Today show on NBC): Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has few days of freedom left despite a final plea for mercy. A federal judge sentenced Blagojevich to 14 years in prison. He's been ordered to surrender to police on February 16th but he can still appeal. Blagojevich's sentence is the longest ever given to a former governor in Illinois state history.

Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan
Matthew Balan is a news analyst at Media Research Center