Tax-Funded NPR and PBS Bored at IRS Scandal; Instead, Mark Shields Trashes Sanford as Unforgivable 'Jerk'

Both NPR and PBS skipped over the Obama-IRS scandal on Friday night’s “week in review” segments. Both led instead by wondering about whether conservatives would ruin immigration “reform” and then briefly touched on Benghazi.

 On the PBS Newshour, all the outrage was saved for the end, as Mark Shields railed against Congressman-elect Mark Sanford as an unforgivable “jerk” for having his mistress with him at his special-election victory party next to his sons, and then trashed the GOP voters who elected him:

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, let's finally turn to right here at home, South Carolina politics. The former governor of the state who was involved in his own personal, shall we say, colorful episode where he went off with a mistress in South America, Mark Sanford has now come roaring back. He won his congressional seat against a well-funded Democratic opponent. What does that say about American politics? What does it say about the Democrat?

MICHAEL GERSON [the "conservative"]: Well, they say we get the Congress we deserve, and if this is true in this case, then God help us. This is a case where -- you know, this was a genuinely creepy circumstance. You know, during the campaign, he had his mistress meet his teenaged son at a public event in front of a crowd of people.

MARK SHIELDS: Cameras.

MICHAEL GERSON: You know, with cameras around. It was a very strange circumstance.

MARK SHIELDS: It was.

MICHAEL GERSON: This is really a case where everyone deserves grace, but grace takes time and healing and penance in most religious traditions. The philosopher and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer talked about cheap grace. This was cheap grace.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: Well, I can't argue with that. I'd simply point out, Judy, that Mark Sanford is a man of great consistency. He said I think it would be much better for the country if Bill Clinton resigns, I come from the business side, if you had a chairman or president in the business world doing what he did, he'd be gone.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Back during the impeachment.

MARK SHIELDS: That's exactly right. He also stuck a knife into Bob Livingston, the Republican speaker-designate in the House, saying that he had to resign because he had lied to his wife. I just think it's a great tribute to the compassion, decency of the Republican voters of South Carolina that they last chose Newt Gingrich in the presidential primary. So serial adultery is apparently not a disqualification. They are a forgiving and really compassionate people.

JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, we appreciate the compassion.

MARK SHIELDS: And he's a jerk. He's a jerk. I mean, what he did to his son -- what he did to his son at that moment, as any parent, it's just unforgivable what he did. I mean, introducing, this is your new stepmother, my girlfriend, I want to you to meet her in front of 12 television cameras and 1,000 people who he had never met before. It was unforgivable.

Now, for those who care about how PBS covered Bill Clinton's adultery, in 1998 anchor Jim Lehrer was decrying media overreach in the first week. But Mark Shields gets to lecture someone else about moral consistency? Decrying Sanford's behavior is best saved for people who aren't just trying to smear the Republican voters of South Carolina. 

NPR led its program with Scott Horsley's report on “President Asks Moms For Help Promoting Obamacare.” That story was thirty seconds longer than its IRS report by Peter Overby, which was less than two minutes long. 

PBS gave the IRS scandal just three sentences in its news wrap on Friday night:

HARI SREENIVASAN, news anchor: The Internal Revenue Service has admitted it flagged some conservative groups for more aggressive reviews during the 2012 election. They were singled out if their applications for tax-exempt status included the words “Tea Party” or “Patriot.”

The head of the IRS division overseeing tax-exempt groups said today the practice was wrong. She said no high-level IRS officials knew it was happening at the time.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis