CBS's local affiliate in Chicago today threatened to stop covering the Illinois Senate race if the Republican candidate continues to harp on an issue extremely damaging to his Democratic opponent.
If a candidate for the United States Senate was a senior loan officer for a bank that made over $20 million in loans to convicted bookies and pimps (while he was employed as a loan officer), is that candidate's opponent in the wrong for harping on the issue?
Chicago's CBS affiliate apparently thinks such connections should be off limits. A reporter from Chicago's CBS Channel 2 told Mark Kirk, the Republican opponent of former Broadway Bank loan officer Alexi Giannoulias that his channel is "not going to cover the Senate race, if it’s consistently only in your terms, is about Broadway Bank." (H/t Big Journalism, via Steve Gutowski)
"Alexi's been pilloried," the reporter added, seemingly suggesting that Kirk has made his point and should move on. Regardless of the merits of that argument, is the media now the arbiter of what is appropriate for a political campaign? That's generally thought to be the voter's job.
This reporter's request to move on is hardly CBS 2 Chicago policy. The affiliate had no problem, for instance, harping on lawmakers' connections to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. CBS 2 did a number of stories on, as one story put it, Abramoff's "ties to GOP congressional leaders and the White House," which, the station reported "pose a particular problem for Republicans."
The Abramoff issue was pertinent, and well within the purview CBS 2's coverage. But so is Giannoulias's connections to Broadway Bank -- more so, in fact, considering the local nature of the story.
Of course Giannoulias complains about Kirk's dwelling on the Broadway Bank issue. And why wouldn't he? It's egg on his face. If voters weren't swayed by the scandal, Giannoulias would hardly insist the issue be dropped. Kirk's dwelling on it would be a boon for his campaign.
But voters do care that a prospective Senator was a high-up officer of a now-defunct bank that gave loans to felons. If Kirk insists on continuing to tout the issue, the only way the Giannoulias campaign can be spared embarrassment is is if the media stops covering the scandal.
CBS is happy to oblige.