Name That Party: AP Fails to Tag Nearly Indicted John Edwards as a Dem (Updates: AP Tags and Pulls, Then Restores)

UPDATE: As seen here, the very earliest AP reports appear to have identified Edwards as a Democrat (the age of the item may not correspond with when the AP subscriber actually received it), but the latest ones, including this item found at AP's home site (as of 12:59 p.m.), do not. UPDATE 2: A mixed bag -- The 6:55 p.m. report from the same AP reporters (pic here) notes that Edwards was the "2004 Democratic vice-presidential nominee," and waits until Paragraph 4 to note that the possible indictment stems from the 2007-2008 campaign.

In their 11:29 a.m. report (saved here in case it gets updated, and for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes) on the apparently imminent indictment of 2004 and 2008 Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, Associated Press reporters Mike Baker and Gary D. Robertson did not identify Edwards as a Democrat, nor did they identify any of his campaign associates (e.g., Andrew Young, Fred Baron) as Democrats. No form of the word "Democrat" appears in the report as it was posted at 11:29 a.m.

Here are the first seven paragraphs of the AP pair's effort:

AP source: Edwards could be indicted within days

 

Federal prosecutors have completed a wide-ranging investigation into John Edwards' political dealings and could indict the two-time presidential candidate within days, a person familiar with the matter said Wednesday.

 

Edwards could still strike a plea deal to avoid an indictment, said the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the case's sensitivity.

 

Federal investigators have been probing Edwards for two more than years. Their interest has spanned much of Edwards' political career, looking into issues such as whether he did anything improper during his time in the U.S. Senate. And it looked into a network of organizations connected to Edwards, including a nonprofit, political action committees and a so-called 527 political group.

 

Much of the investigation, however, focused on money that eventually went to keep mistress Rielle Hunter in hiding along with former campaign aide Andrew Young, who claimed paternity of Hunter's child in 2007 so that Edwards could continue his White House campaign without the affair tarnishing his reputation. Investigators have been looking at whether those funds should have been considered campaign donations since they arguably aided his presidential bid.

 

Justice Department officials in Washington had been reviewing the case in recent weeks.

 

The U.S. attorney in Raleigh declined to comment Wednesday. An Edwards spokeswoman did not immediately return a message seeking comment, though his attorneys have said they are confident the former North Carolina senator did not violate campaign finance laws.

 

Young has said that Edwards agreed in the middle of 2007 to solicit money directly from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, the 100-year-old widow of banking heir Paul Mellon. Young has said he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks from Mellon, some of them hidden in boxes of chocolate.

A few hours earlier, though it did take them a while, and they did so a bit cryptically, ABC News at least tagged Edwards as a Democrat in their report's fifth paragraph when they referred to "his pursuit of the 2008 Democratic nomination for president." They could easily have done so in the report's first sentence ("The United States Department of Justice has green-lighted the prosecution of former presidential candidate John Edwards for alleged violations of campaign laws while he tried to cover up an extra-marital affair, ABC News has learned").

Baker and Robertson have blatantly and inarguably violated of AP's stylebook standard (cited here and on several other occasions) for identification of party affiliation, which states:

Let relevance be the guide in determining whether to include a political figure’s party affiliation in a story. Party affiliation is pointless in some stories, such as an account of a governor accepting a button from a poster child.

 

It will occur naturally in many political stories. For stories between these extremes, include party affiliation if readers need it for understanding or are likely to be curious about what it is.

For the excuse-makers: Don't try the "everybody knows" garbage around here. Even if that's true now, part of the reason for failing to tag Edwards as a Dem would appear to be the hope that as time goes by, he'll be forgotten, and future researchers into political crime and corruption won't cite him as a Democratic Party, example because they won't find him in related Internet searches.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

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