Name That Party: Dem MA State Senator Charged in Sexual Assaults

The Associated Press has done it again, even beyond what Ken Shepherd of NewsBusters noted in a related post on June 4. In that post, Ken cited an AP report that did not identify the political party of Democratic Massachusetts State Senator and alleged serial sexual assaulter James Marzilli until the eleventh and final paragraph. AP Writer Denise Lavoie went one step further in her 300-word July 30 report on criminal complaint charges that have been filed against Marzilli. She completely failed to disclose his party, even though she noted his previous withdrawal from an upcoming election, and even though there is another prosecution in progress involving similar charges:

Mass. state senator charged with groping woman A court clerk-magistrate on Wednesday charged a state lawmaker with groping a woman in a case the district attorney declined to prosecute because it lacked evidence. The criminal complaint charges state Sen. James Marzilli with two counts of indecent assault and battery alleging he groped a woman after an arts fundraiser April 6. The charges were issued by Cambridge District Court Clerk-Magistrate Robert Moscow after the accuser made a citizen's request for criminal charges, a rarely used step allowed under state law. ..... In a separate case, Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone is prosecuting Marzilli for allegedly sexually harassing four women in a single day in Lowell in June. He pleaded not guilty to those charges. His lawyer later said he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and Marzilli has said he won't seek re-election.

Lavoie's story is a more obvious than usual example of a two-month pattern of downplaying Marzilli's party in stories about him as his legal troubles have mounted. The local Boston Globe in particular hasn't been very forthright:

  • This July 10 report by Christopher Baxter about Marzilli's claim of having bipolar disorder waited until the ninth paragraph to identify the Senator's party.
  • On July 16, in a "creative" twist, reporter Andrea Estes identified the party of an attendee at at event where Marzilli allegedly victimized two other women ("a 2006 Deval Patrick political rally attended by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama") without ever specifically naming the Senator's party.
  • Two other reports (June 5, June 6) waited until the fifth or sixth paragraphs to identify Marzilli as a Dem, each time after missing several obvious earlier opportunities to do so. The reactions of several Bay State Democrats to Marzilli's situation chronicled in the June 6 story, which also notes that Marzilli is also under investigations allegedly involving at least five other women in the last two years, have to be read to be believed.

On the other hand, this Boston Herald story about Marzilli checking himself in for psychiatric treatment identified him as a Dem in the second paragraph. Perhaps the Herald's proper treatment is the only thing motivating its competitor, the Globe, to name Marzilli's party at all. One exception to all of this at the Globe has been columnist Joan Vennochi. Three weeks ago, while identifying Marzilli's party in her third paragraph, she called on him to resign, noting that:

He hasn't been to Beacon Hill since his arrest and told voters that he will not return. His staff is running his Senate office and responding to constituents. If Marzilli isn't running for reelection, voting, or formulating policy, how does he justify staying in office? He can't.

But as far as I can tell in various searches, the Boston Globe's editorial board has not demanded Marzilli's resignation. Vennochi's bio shows no indications that she might be a closet vast right wing conspirator. In a different op-ed last Thursday, in the course of commenting on conflict-of-interest allegations against Sal DiMasi, another Massachusetts State Senator, Vennochi identified DiMasi and Marzilli as liberals, and asked:

Should liberals close their eyes to problematic behavior, just as they are doing with another liberal, state Senator James Marzilli?

Doing so becomes a bit easier when the party affiliation of the alleged perpetrator isn't displayed prominently in the hard-news stories, Joan. Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.