Media Mimic DNC Chairman Dean’s Talking Points About DeLay Indictment

Shortly after yesterday’s announcement of Rep. Tom DeLay’s (R-Tex) indictment for alleged campaign finance violations, the mainstream media began doing reports on the subject with largely similar content. A memo written by Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean posted at the Democratic Party’s website almost immediately after the announcement was made contained virtually the same “hotbuttons” as those subsequently raised in media accounts of the story. 

What follows is a copy of that memo, along with comparisons to what has since been reported by leading media outlets on this subject:

DNC Chairman Dean on DeLay Indictment

September 28, 2005

Washington, DC - Today, a Texas grand jury returned a criminal indictment against House GOP Leader Tom DeLay on a charge of conspiracy. Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean issued the following statement, saying DeLay's indictment is symptomatic of the Republicans' culture of corruption in Washington, DC:

"Today, the state of Texas is doing what the Republican-controlled federal government has failed repeatedly to do, which is hold Republicans in Washington accountable for their culture of corruption. This alleged illegal activity reaches to the highest levels of the Republican Party.

"With House Republican Leader Tom DeLay under criminal indictment, Senate Republican Leader Frist facing SEC and Department of Justice investigations, and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove under investigation, the Republican leadership in Washington is now spending more time answering questions about ethical misconduct than doing the people's business."

“Tom DeLay is neither the beginning nor the end of the Washington Republicans' ethical problems. America can do better than leaders who use their power to promote their own personal interests instead of the interests of the American people who elected them. We simply must change the way business is done in Washington."

The key points in this memo are:

  •   DeLay’s behavior is symptomatic of a Republican culture of corruption
  •   This alleged illegal activity goes to the highest levels of the Republican Party
  •   Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn) is a possible example of such corruption
  •   White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove is another possible example

Coincidentally or not, no fewer than eight of America’s leading media outlets have filed reports concerning DeLay’s indictment that included some or all of the key points made by Dean in his DNC memo:

1.      CBS’s Gloria Borger reported yesterday: “But, on the other hand, they’re nervous because Democrats have been talking about something they call ‘the abuse of power’, and of course this DeLay indictment fits into the abuse of power. There have also been questions about other Republicans including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, including Karl Rove, a top aide to the president over at the White House. And, they’re afraid that this plays into that political talking point for the Democrats.”

2.      Moments after the announcement, CNN’s Bill Schneider said the following on “Live From…”:  “Well, look, there are corruption scandals in Washington all the time. There are a number of them now that surround Republicans. There's a controversy over Bill Frist, the leader of the Senate. There was a member of the president's Office of Management and Budget who was recently arrested for his criminal activities associated with Jack Abramoff, who's under investigation. I think we can say that the Democrats are looking forward to raising the corruption issue, the scandal issue, in the midterm election next year. And of course Tom DeLay, the majority leader of the House of Representatives, could not be a juicier target for Democrats.”

3.      Chip Reid on NBC’s “Nightly News” last evening said: “The indictment came days after an investigation of senate leader Bill Frist for insider trading. Frist denies the accusations but Democrats are using the dual investigations to ratchet up their campaign accusing Republicans of a culture of corruption.  I don't think the corruption issue alone can sink the Republican majorities in the House or Senate but it can be a real contributing factor.”  

On the same broadcast, “Meet the Press’s” Tim Russert said: “Within hours of the indictment, this e-mail was sent to Democratic contributors. And it says that Tom DeLay was indicted. Bill Frist is under investigation. The White House is under investigation for the C.I.A. leak.”

4.      Ron Fournier of the Associated Press wrote yesterday: “Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., faces federal investigations into his stock sales. “A former White House official was arrested last week in the investigation of Jack Abramoff, a high-powered lobbyist and fundraiser. In a direct threat to the White House, a federal prosecutor is investigating the disclosure of a CIA agent's identify. Two years ago, the White House denied that Bush confidant Karl Rove played any role, but revelations in recent months have shown that the deputy chief of staff spoke with two journalists about the operative. Whether Bush knew the truth while the White House was issuing its denials is not publicly known.”

5.      Robin Toner in the New York Times wrote today: “In the Senate, Republican ranks have been roiled this week by an investigation of Senator Bill Frist, the majority leader, who is under scrutiny for his stock dealings from a blind trust.” 

      “At the same time, the White House is grappling with a criminal investigation into whether anyone leaked the name of a C.I.A. operative, an inquiry that has brought both Karl Rove, Mr. Bush's top political adviser…”

“Now the Democrats are reaching for the reformers' mantle. More and more, they attack the Republicans as a party riddled with corruption and out of touch with the problems and concerns of ordinary Americans.”

6.      Dan Balz of the Washington Post wrote today:  “On the ethics front, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) is under investigation for selling stock in his family's medical business just before the price fell sharply. The probe of well-connected lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a former close associate of DeLay, threatens to create even more troubles for Republicans. Finally, the special counsel investigation into whether White House senior adviser Karl Rove or others in the administration broke the law by leaking the name of the CIA's Valerie Plame is nearing a conclusion.” 

“What worries Republicans is the confluence of a large number of scandals when Bush and the GOP Congress are at the weakest point in years.”

7.      Janet Hook and Maura Reynolds of the Los Angeles Times wrote today: “It comes less than a week after Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) acknowledged he was under investigation for a stock sale, giving new ammunition for Democrats who seek to call attention to alleged ethical lapses to bolster an argument that Republicans have abused power in Congress and the White House.”

“Others immediately linked DeLay's problems to Frist's, as well as to the investigation of Bush advisor Karl Rove in connection with the disclosure of a CIA operative's identity.”

In fact, the LA Times even quoted from Dean’s memo: “‘The Republican leadership in Washington is now spending more time answering questions about ethical misconduct than doing the people's business,’ said Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.”

“A key question is whether Democrats will succeed in turning GOP ethics controversies to congressional electoral advantage in 2006. Some analysts see a parallel between current developments and the scandals involving Democrats in the late 1980s and early 1990s that helped lay the groundwork for Republicans to win control of Congress in 1994.”

8.      USA Today reported:

     “DeLay has properly stepped aside, as required by party rules that Republicans tried to water down last year but reconsidered amid public outrage. Yet his indictment adds to the whiff of corruption surrounding several prominent Republicans in Washington:

• Lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a DeLay golfing pal and fundraiser, faces wire fraud charges in a Florida casino-cruise deal.

• David Safavian, the top federal-procurement officer, was arrested last week on charges of misleading investigators about Abramoff's interest in acquiring property from the General Services Administration in 2002.

• Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., is under fire for selling his holdings in his family's giant hospital company shortly before the stock plunged on disappointing earnings.

“DeLay and the others are entitled to the presumption of innocence. But, cumulatively, the allegations pose a threat to Republicans in next year's congressional elections. If they can't clean up their act, the voters could conclude it's again time for a change.”

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.