Ronan Farrow opened his MSNBC program Tuesday with these words: "Who can steal Magnolia State voters?" The opening words on the screen behind him were: "Mississippi Mud," followed by a chyron reading "Stealing the Magnolia State." Farrow's reporting quickly emphasized, several times, that the primary was a Republican one, and that it had gotten "nasty."
Several minutes followed, with NBC's Kasie Hunt reporting live from Hattiesburg, Mississippi, detailing the "really hard fought, really nasty" campaign between U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran, portrayed on the whole as a doddering figure, and strongly conservative challenger Chris McDaniel, portrayed as an insensitive extremist.
But after having raised the specter not just of nastiness but of corruption, MSNBC said not a word thereafter about electoral theft -- perhaps because there hasn't been any. The use of "stolen" apparently was just a teaser, oh-so-conveniently conjoined in the report's opening sentences with "Republican."
But the full scale of the news slant didn't become apparent until Farrow then asked Hunt to switch the discussion from the Mississippi race to the New York Democratic primary between 44-year House veteran Charlie Rangel and his main challenger, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat. That, too, is a race that has featured lots of harsh rhetoric and bitter feelings -- but you wouldn't know it from MSNBC, which portrayed it merely as a battle of demographics, with Hispanics increasingly moving into what formerly was an overwhelmingly black district.
But that wasn't the worst thing. The kicker was this: After having aired, during the Mississippi discussion, old clips of McDaniel saying supposedly embarrassingly extremist or offensive things, neither Hunt nor Farrow gave the slightest indication that the liberal Democrat Rangel is one of the most disgraced members of Congress in history.
Instead of being described as one of only 28 congressmen ever expelled or (in Rangel's case) censured, in the history of the House -- not to mention the first once censured in 27 years! -- Hunt merely described Rangel, with a slight and almost fond chuckle, as "one of the great characters of the United States Congress." There was not one word about the scandals that have followed Rangel for years.
The contrast was stark. A liberal congressman from New York, found guilty of ethics violations, portrayed almost wistfully; while a conservative state senator from Mississippi with no ethical blemish in office was portrayed as an offensive radical.
One can be sure that had a threatened conservative incumbent had a record of sorry ethics, those ethics, and not just the ethnic demographics of his district, would have been front and center in the report.