Essay: Eliot Spitzer – A Man Without A Party

Democrats dialing for damsels don't get labeled with the big "D"

NewsBusters.org | Media Research Center
Changing His Mind
Ronald Reagan often said "I did not leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me."

For floundering and foundering New York Governor Eliot Spitzer -- a twist on the Gipper's words. Spitzer didn't leave the Democratic Party: the Media just didn't see the need to mention the fact that Spitzer was - at least until noon Wednesday -- one of the most powerful Democrats in the nation.

On Monday afternoon, the Big Three Networks (NBC, ABC and CBS) and the Associated Press led the charge of the wall-to-wall coverage of the breaking news that Spitzer was involved with an interstate prostitution ring. And with near unanimity they failed to mention that Spitzer is a Democrat.

Spitzer - who since his years as the Big Apple's swashbuckling anti-capitalist Attorney General the Press has glowingly called the Champion of the Everyman -- was caught on one or more wiretaps dialing for damsels to the tune of $5,500 an hour.

Only the press can fail to see the irony of calling someone who inherited $500 million - and who hires ladies of the evening at hourly rates equal to a semester's tuition at a state university - a champion of the everyman.

Ronald Reagan also said, "It has been said that politics is the second oldest profession. I have learned that it bears a striking resemblance to the first." Spitzer has finally, formally joined the two in the latest installment of the late New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan's on-going game show "Defining Deviancy Down."

This is devolving into the network news equivalent of the Gong Show, where one utterly miserable contestant takes some sort of perverse pride in being gonged six seconds later than another utterly miserable contestant.

The media, as expected, inundated us with Spitzer stories. They went on and on at great length analyzing the merest minutiae and every detail related to the Spitzer saga - save one. Nearly all their reports were bereft of any mention that he is a (shhh!) Democrat.

NBC has been the worst offender. They have not -- as of early Wednesday morning -- yet labeled Spitzer as a Democrat in any manner.

They led off their Monday Nightly News cast with "Fall From Grace", a four minute story on Spitzer that made no mention -in either word or graphic - of the fact that he is a Democrat. Tuesday morning on their Today show they ran eleven Spitzer stories - in none of them did they label him a Democrat in any way. Tuesday's evening news again made no mention of Spitzer's Party affiliation, but somehow managed to verbally and graphically identify Republicans in their story on Spitzer.

That is thirteen NBC stories on Spitzer over nearly two full days, with no reference whatsoever to him as a Democrat.

ABC fared just barely better. Through Tuesday night, no one on either World News Tonight or Good Morning America said the word "Democrat" in reference to Spitzer. Two times for a total of six seconds -- once on Monday night and once on Tuesday morning -- a "D" was placed by his name in an on-screen graphic.

Like NBC, they too identified Republicans in their Spitzer stories as Republicans, and managed the added coup of assailing the Rs as partisan for wanting the apparently unaffiliated Spitzer to resign.

Congratulations ABC, for being six seconds more credible than NBC.

This is devolving into the network news equivalent of the Gong Show, where one utterly miserable contestant takes some sort of perverse pride in being gonged six seconds later than another utterly miserable contestant.

Hurrahs to CBS's Katie Couric, who on her Evening News actually called Spitzer a Democrat once. But the glory soon faded, as no one on Tuesday morning's Early Show did, relying on two spots totaling fourteen seconds worth of graphically delivered "D"s, and diminished further still with Tuesday night's news also failing to deliver the label.

Gong!

Our old friend, the Associated Press, broke the story with 590 words Monday afternoon, without any Spitzer Party mention. They then came back with a "BREAKING NEWS UPDATE" - perhaps it had come to their attention that he is in fact a Democrat? Alas, no. Eighty-six additional words, nary a "Democrat" amongst them.

Another, related question also remains unanswered -- of what Party affiliation is Customer #9 (Spitzer's Emperor Club call-sign)'s favorite girl, Kristen? The Media may very well deliver this before they do Spitzer's party.

And this is by no means the first time that a Democrat in hot water is transformed by the Media as if by magic into Unaffiliated Man.

Recall Gary Condit, the California DEMOCRATIC Congressman who in 2001 ran into trouble when his Capitol Hill intern and secret paramour Chandra Levy turned up missing and later dead? The Big Three Networks ran a total of 179 stories over the course of the saga -- only 14 contained a reference to him as a Democrat, less than 8%.

And current DEMOCRATIC Mayor of Detroit Kwame Kilpatrick - embroiled in a sex scandal involving his chief-of-staff - has been repeatedly delivered to the public as Unaffiliated Man by Media outlets great and small since the story broke in January.

Just more episodes in the never-ending Gong Show - Media series. (The real) Gong Show host Chuck Barris, somewhere, is smiling.