ABC on Tuesday ignored the ongoing prostitution scandal of Robert Menendez. The network's morning and evening newscasts have skipped the news that federal agents raided the office of a Florida doctor connected to the Democratic senator and his flights to the Dominican Republic. (There, Menendez allegedly engaged prostitutes.) The Senate Ethics Committee is also investigating. ABC avoided the story last fall when it was broke by the Daily Caller.
The New Jersey senator took several flights with Salomon Melgen, using the doctor's plane to leave the country. Last week, both CBS and NBC covered the latest details. ABC, alone, ignored it. Menendez actually appeared on the January 27 edition of ABC's This Week. But guest host Martha Raddatz failed to ask about the controversy. George Stephanopoulos mentioned Menendez on the February 3 program. Finally, the scandal came up, but only vaguely and for one minute in the hour-long program.
Talking to Harry Reid, Stephanopoulos politely inquired, "Are you comfortable with [Menendez] serving as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as these investigations continue?...There are some relatively serious allegations here. Are you confident he did nothing wrong?"
Stephanopoulos, who as a Democratic operative defended Bill Clinton against sex accusations, never mentioned the prostitution angle.
When Herman Cain faced harassment charges, the networks reacted quite differently. A Media Research study found:
In only eight and a half days, NBC, CBS and ABC have devoted a staggering 99 stories to sexual harassment charges against Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain.
ABC, CBS and NBC filed an astonishing 152 stories about Mark Foley in just the first 12 days of his 2006 scandal involving lewd messages with congressional pages.
On March 13, 2008, the MRC's Rich Noyes looked at the difference between Republican and Democratic scandals. With regard to ABC, he found:
So how do the networks treat Republicans involved in sex scandals? Always, always as Republicans, and as problems for their party.
Last July, Louisiana Senator David Vitter’s name surfaced in the phone records of the "DC Madam," Deborah Jean Palfrey. Over the next week, ABC talked about Vitter twice on World News and twice on Good Morning America, labeling him as a "Republican" or "conservative Republican" all four times.
With Menendez and his prostitution scandal, ABC has gone beyond not labeling the senator a Democrat. The network has barely covered him at all.
A transcript of the vague coverage on the February 3 This Week can be found below:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Your incoming chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Robert Menendez, the Ethics Committee is now reviewing his relationship with a major contributor out of Florida. It appears the FBI is investigating that relationship, as well. Are you comfortable with him serving as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as these investigations continue?
HARRY REID: He was a leader in the House. He's been a leader in the Senate. He's chairman of that committee. He'll do a wonderful job. And he's also an integral part of what we do with immigration reform. So I have the utmost confidence in him. As to the rest of the investigation, that will have to be handled the way they're all handled around here, in-depth, and the Ethics Committee, I read in the paper today they're taking a look at it. So that's - that'll have to work--
STEPHANOPOULOS: There are some relatively allegations here. Are you confident he did nothing wrong?
REID: Oh, I have confidence he did nothing wrong, but that's what investigations are all about.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But you're fine with him serving while the investigation goes forward?
REID: Oh, sure. He's - he will - he has been and will be a great member of that committee.