Name That Party: Dem Cincy Councilwoman In Controversial Traffic Stop Not Id'd; GOP Critic Is

WCPOLaketaColeStoryPic0509Democratic Cincinnati City Councilwoman Laketa Cole was pulled over by city police on Wednesday afternoon along with a friend while each was driving their own motorcycle.

WCPO-TV Channel 9 investigated the incident, and found that Cole appeared to attempt to get special treatment to avoid having her friend's motorcycle seized.

The video verion of WCPO's report ultimately notes that Cole and her friend received tickets. But "somehow," the text that is supposed to reflect the content of the video does not.

The station did not mention Cole's Democratic Party affiliation in its report, or in its follow-up when Cole called to defend herself. The Cincinnati Democratic Committee endorsed Cole's reelection bid this November on April 8. The Cincinnati Enquirer's report on the incident also doesn't name Cole's party.

That's bad enough, but when Hamilton County Republican Party chairman Alex Triantafilou issued a press release denouncing Cole's apparent attempts at obtaining favoritism, the Enquirer only identified Triantafilou's party, and not Cole's (Cincinnati is the county seat of Hamilton County).

Here are segments of the text version of WCPO's report:

As the police car camera rolled, Officer Zucker asked the pair (Cole and her friend Cornelius Scroggins), “May I see your driver's license and proof of insurance please?"

Cole answered, "Sure. Can I ask what did we do?"

Zucker: "Yes, ma'm. You crossed the solid white line back there. That's a violation."

But it wasn't the only one. Once Zucker ran the plates and license information, he found that Scroggins had a series of driving violations and license suspensions which led to an "ALS", or Auto License Seizure. It’s a a designation that means the officer must impound that driver’s vehicle.

..... Zucker called for a tow truck. But Cole was making a call herself. On the tape you can see her hand her cell phone to officer Zucker, as he responds respectfully to a superior.

"Yes, sir. How are you?" he says. On the line was assistant police chief Lt. Col Mike Cureton. He wouldn't talk to 9News on camera but confirmed that Cole called him and that he talked to Officer Zucker at the scene.

After Zucker hands the phone back to Cole, he walks toward his police car and you can hear him tell another officer, "He just told me not to take the motorcycle. Now what do you do?"

Zucker clearly had one understanding of that call; Cureton says he never asked the officer not to tow a motorcycle. He says Cole told him it was her cycle about to be towed. Once the officer told him it was Scroggins' bike, Cureton says that was it.

On the police tape you can hear Zucker asking, "Miss Cole, did he want to speak with me again?" Zucker then instructs the tow truck driver to take the bike, which went to the police impound lot.

Cole dialed more than the assistant chief. City Manager Milton Dohoney confirms that she called him too.

Here are the first few paragraphs of the Enquirer's report on the County GOP Chairman's statement:

In a prepared statement sent to media, Hamilton County GOP Chairman Alex M. Triantafilou says voters should reject Cincinnati City Council member Y. Laketa Cole in the next election after her behavior during a traffic stop Wednesday.

Cole was pulled over by Cincinnati police for a minor traffic violation and called two high-ranking Cincinnati officials while still at the scene.

Cole and a friend were driving their motorcycles about 3:30 p.m. on Mitchell Avenue when they were flagged down by police. Cole admitted calling both Lt. Col. Michael Cureton of the Cincinnati Police and City Manager Milton Dohoney about the incident, but said she was not making a play for favoritism.

Compared to other Ohio cities, Cincinnati politics is not as dominated by Democrats. Though Democrats have held a majority of the nine-member Council most of the time for several decades, there are two other viable parties. First, there is the Charter Party, which has a rich history going back to 1924. Shortly after its inception, the Charter Party (aka the Charter Committee) was instrumental in moving the city from a mayor-council form of government (also referred to as the "strong mayor" form) to a council-city manager setup. City Council currently has two Charter Party members, and has had one or two during every Council term going back at least to 1991. Additionally, the Republican Party has usually had two or three members on Council since 1993.

The germane point is that large numbers of Metro Cincinnati-area news viewers and readers can't automatically know the political party of a Cincinnati Council member in trouble. They can't even infer Cole's Democratic affiliation from the GOP's criticism. Thus, the Enquirer's and WCPO's failures to identify Cole's party in their news reports is seriously biased and substandard journalism by any objective standard.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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