Over the course of two segments and seven minutes, "Good Morning America" co-host Diane Sawyer on Monday completely ignored the party affiliation of a Kansas City mayor embroiled in a lawsuit over racist remarks and charges of nepotism, at no point identifying Mayor Mark Funkhouser as a Democrat. The only designation of Funkhouser came in the form of a bland, onscreen graphic: "Mayor Mark Funkhouser (Kansas City, Missouri)."
Funkhouser has been battling his own city council since they passed a law barring his wife from working at city hall. Additionally, as Sawyer explained, a former city employee has filed a lawsuit "accusing the mayor and his wife of making racist remarks," such as referring to the African American woman as "mammy." A November 21 Wall Street Journal article, from which the GMA segment is based, managed to label Funkhouser a Democrat in the second sentence.
The only way GMA viewers would have any inkling of the politician's party status is when the mayor's wife, Gloria Squitiro, indirectly raised the subject. Decrying the nepotism charges, she exclaimed, "Thank God for Hillary. She paved the way for Michelle and, you know, we're not going to have to sit there and worry about where Michelle sits during the day because of Hillary."
Ignoring the party identification of Democratic mayors involved in controversy is a ubiquitous occurrence on the big three networks. NewsBusters has frequently documented the occasions in which the evening news shows skipped over the fact that scandal-ridden former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was a Democrat. On August 7, when a Michigan judge ordered the mayor be sent to jail, only CBS and Fox News mentioned his party affiliation.
A transcript of the first segment, and a partial transcript of the second, both of which aired December 1 at 8:05am, follows:
DIANE SAWYER: And now a story we first saw in the Wall Street Journal about husbands and wives working right next to each other in the workplace. You're about to meet a big city mayor who's actually got people talking and battling because he wants to keep his wife right next to him in city hall as a volunteer personal assistant right there with him. One of its local newspapers actually withdrew its endorsement of him because of it. Why? What's going on? Not everyone thinks it's a good idea. Take a look. City hall has been a little less loving lately for Kansas City Mayor Mark Funkhouser without one key aide, his wife Gloria, one time birthing coach who master-minded his mayoral campaign with catchy ads like this.
ABC GRAPHIC: Mayor Under Fire for Nepotism: Does He Love His Wife Too Much?
[Clip of people singing "We want the Funk."]
SAWYER: After the election victory, she came to work with him every day, a volunteer personal assistant.
MARK FUNKHOUSER: This is the booth. This is the chair that she will be sitting in again when she comes back.
SAWYER: But not if the city council can help it.
ED FORD (Kansas City Council): The mayor makes every day bring-your-wife-to-work day.
DIANE SAWYER: In September, after a former city employee filed suit, accusing the mayor and his wife of making racist remarks, creating a hostile work environment, the council passed a law banning elected officials from having family members volunteering in their offices
FORD: The problem is when ever you have to supervisor a family member, loved one, your wife, it's- you can't be objective.
MAYOR MARK FUNKHOUSER (Kansas City, Missouri): They think that they can pass a law that determines who can and cannot come and talk to me in my office. I don't think that's legal. I don't think it's constitutional.
SAWYER: Funkhouser insists his wife makes him more effective as mayor. He's even suing the city to get her back. For the time being, the two spending much more time at home as family and as mayor and volunteer. Though city employees think he's on thin ice with the law on their side.
FORD: The mayor will be lucky to finish his current term because I think he will face the threat of a recall or removal from office because of nepotism issue.
SAWYER: What about this lawsuit, though? Talking about racially insensitive remarks, including an African-American woman in the office being called mammy?
GLORIA SQUITIRO (Mayor's wife): I have never used a racial slur in my life. My parents are Italians. They grew up in the '20s in New York City when there was a real hate going on for Italians then. I was not raised to use derogatory words. If I would ever have uttered a racial word in my house, my mother would have smacked me so hard, my teeth would have rattled.
SAWYER: Let me ask you this though, if it's causing such a ruckus- I just whacked him Robin over here accidentally. Sorry- If it's causing such a ruckus, why not just give your advice from home and do the things that you've been doing, you've been a birthing coach. Why not just do it at home?
SQUITIRO: Well, because we feel like most political spouses do what I do. They just tend to keep it hidden. And we're not willing to compromise our honesty to the people of Kansas City to do it that way. I think political wives are coming out of the closet. Thank God for Hillary. She paved the way for Michelle and, you know, we're not going to have to sit there and worry about where Michelle sits during the day because of Hillary.
SAWYER: Mr. Mayor, you willing to lose the job over this?
FUNKHOUSER: You know, I don't think I'm going to lose the job. I think this is a whole lot of ado about nothing. You know, Kansas City is a dynamic city. It's got a great, revitalized downtown. It's world class animal health, life sciences industry. It's got thriving arts community, world class engineering firms. But, we've got issues. We've got financial issues which are aggravated by the global economy. We've got conditions in the urban core that threaten the overall vitality of the city. I'm the guy to deal with that stuff.
SAWYER: You're going to dig in on this, though? You're not backing down?
FUNKHOUSER: You know, I- You know, I've got determination. I've got tenacity. And I think Kansas Cityians has wanted a stand-up guy who sticks with what he believes in.
SAWYER: All right. I thank the two of you for being with us. I guess the Lamaze coach version of just breathe and see what happens here?
SQUITIRO: We're going to breathe. And Kansas Cityians are a tough lot. They're going to breathe too. And we're going to see our way to the end, standing tall.