AP Throws Pity Party for Dems In Illinois Lt. Gov. Nominee Stories

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In stories currently carrying Friday afternoon and early Saturday time stamps, the Associated Press weighed in with supportive articles about Illinois Democrats who are desperately trying to convince Scott Lee Cohen (pictured at right; image is captured from his web site), who won the party's nomination for Lieutenant Governor, to step aside.

In the Friday afternoon's report ("Embattled Dem Ill. candidate won't step down"), AP reporter Karen Hawkins swallowed the line that "details had emerged" about Cohen's 2005 arrest on domestic battery charges, despite the fact that Cohen himself preemptively disclosed many of those details to Chicago Sun-Times reporter Mark Brown in March 2009 (link is to a cached copy of Brown's article that was posted at Cohen's campaign site). Brown apparently chose not to relay much of what Cohen revealed, but he clearly had a lot of it.

In an early Saturday item ("IL Gov. might want to run from his running mate"), the wire service's Deanna Bellandi owned up to the existence of the Sun-Times story and relayed the demands of several Illinois Democrats that Cohen withdraw.

Each reporter seemed to go out of her way to avoid mentioning the remaining candidates for the Republican Party's gubernatorial nomination, Bill Brady and Kirk Dillard, who are currently locked in a razor-thin, currently undecided race.

Here are selected paragraphs from Hawkins's earlier report:

A political newcomer who won the Democratic nomination for Illinois lieutenant governor said he has no intention of leaving the race after details emerged about his arrest for allegedly holding a knife to his former girlfriend's throat.

Scott Lee Cohen struck a defiant tone even after running mate Gov. Pat Quinn predicted he would have to leave the race. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin also said Friday that Cohen needs to step aside - though Durbin said he didn't expect President Barack Obama's White House would have to intervene.

Cohen said people should wait for all facts to become known.

... Cohen was arrested on domestic battery charges in 2005, accused of pushing his then-girlfriend's head against a wall and of the knife incident. The police report noted abrasions on her neck and hand, but charges were dropped after she failed to appear in court.

Police records show the woman had been arrested for prostitution, the Chicago Tribune reported. Cohen said he did not know that at the time. He told WTTW-TV that he met her at a "massage therapy place" and believed she was a masseuse. Cohen denied hitting her and said their relationship was "tumultuous."

Cohen said he has asked her and his ex-wife, Debbie Cohen York, to clear the air. York sought an order of protection against Cohen in 2005 as she filed for divorce. She said his violence was fueled by anabolic steroids.

... Cohen, a pawnbroker and owner of a cleaning supplies company, shocked the political establishment by beating four state lawmakers to nab the Democratic nomination with 26 percent of the vote. He gained strong name recognition with advertising that featured people who said they found jobs at employment fairs he organized.

Cohen stressed that he disclosed his arrest before he announced his candidacy.

Cohen's 26.0% of the vote was 3.7% and 30,000 ballots ahead of his closest competitor. There should have been plenty of warning that the guy was serious, based on the money he spent, the length of his campaign, and based on the results of this Google News Archive search on Cohen's full name in quotes for calendar 2009, the extent of his activity. That Cohen's emphasis on jobs in a state with double-digit unemployment would resonate with Democratic voters shouldn't have surprised anyone.

Barrandi's early Saturday report went into overdrive with clear advocacy and inflammatory quotes. Note the failure to name the GOP gubernatorial contenders in the fifth paragraph:

Just when Illinois was starting to move on from the scandals of ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich, along comes Scott Lee Cohen.

After the political unknown managed to win the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor Tuesday, it became widely known that he was accused of abusing his ex-wife and holding a knife to the throat of an ex-girlfriend - a woman who was herself charged with prostitution. He also admits using steroids in the past.

Democratic leaders hadn't considered Cohen a threat to win and didn't highlight his past during the campaign. Now they're alarmed that Cohen could drag down the ticket he shares with Gov. Pat Quinn.

He is refusing demands that he step out of the race; if he doesn't, Quinn might have to change parties to sever Cohen's political aspirations from his own.

Quinn already was facing a tough Republican challenge, and with a similarly tight U.S. Senate race expected, the stakes could extend beyond the state offices for Illinois Democrats.

"It really puts all of us in jeopardy," said U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill.

.... U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin said Cohen needs to step aside and the people he trusts politically need to make that clear to him.

"Mr. Cohen is not going to be the lieutenant governor," said Durbin, who chastised the party and the media for not doing a better job vetting candidates.

.... If Cohen voluntarily resigns from the ticket, he would be replaced on the ballot by state party leaders. If he doesn't, Durbin and others say Quinn can consider the possibility of running without him by leaving the Democratic Party.

It's happened before. In 1986, Democrat Adlai Stevenson III created the Illinois Solidarity Party to avoid running with a lieutenant governor candidate who was a follower of frequent presidential candidate Lyndon LaRouche. Stevenson lost to Republican Gov. Jim Thompson.

"Somehow," both AP reporters forgot to ask any of the 212,902 Illinois Democrats who supported Cohen their thoughts about having their votes nullified by party bigwigs.

It's also more than a little odd that there no full-faced picture of Cohen at either story. Instead, one has a picture of incumbent governor Pat Quinn at a news conference, while the other (link is to enlarged version) has a picture of Cohen on the phone at his pawn shop. Well over a third of his face is covered. Though yours truly is not the best judge of such things, it appears that some voters might find Cohen physically attractive, something Illinois Dems would not consider particularly helpful in the circumstances.

Cynical observers might note that given that the Democratic Party's White House occupant has admitted to past cocaine use, and that Illinois's Democratic nominee for its open U.S. Senate is allegedly "married to the mob," one might expect that Land of Lincoln Democrats, instead of shunning Scott Lee Cohen, would instead be welcoming him to the club with open arms.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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