What’s the difference between a political scandal involving a Republican and one involving a Democrat? When it comes to news coverage, reporters almost always identify the political party of a Republican caught in a scandal, but when the culprit is a Democrat, the party label is usually left out of the story.
There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but not many. To prove the point, here’s how ABC, CBS and NBC have identified (or failed to identify) the figures in 16 political scandals — 8 Democrats, 8 Republicans — as documented by NewsBusters during the past few years:
On Wednesday, ABC and CBS's evening newscasts punted yet again on reporting Ray Nagin's Democratic affiliation, after the disgraced former New Orleans mayor was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for corruption. World News and CBS Evening News previously omitted Nagin's party ID when he was indicted in January 2013, and after a jury convicted him in February 2014.
ABC's Diane Sawyer hyped that the politician's sentencing was "a staggering fall from grace for the man who rose to national fame leading his city through Hurricane Katrina," but failed to mention that the Democrat was widely criticized for his handling of the disaster. By contrast, Brian Williams mentioned both his political affiliation and the post-Katrina criticism on NBC Nightly News: [MP3 audio available here; video below the jump]
Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin was sentenced to 10 years in prison today on fraud, bribery and related charges. In a January 2006 appearance on PBS's Tavis Smiley Show, Nagin, who in many several previous news reports had been described as a Republican who became a Democrat once he sought political office, told Smiley that he "never was a Republican" and he has been a "life-long Democrat."
As would be expected, several media outlets are failing to report Nagin's declared status as a "life-long Democrat." A particularly egregious example is at USA Today (saved here for future reference, fair use and discussion purposes, and in case USAT makes revisions; HT longtime NB commenter Gary Hall; bolds are mine):
News reports indicate that Vincent A. "Buddy" Cianci, who was Mayor of Providence, Rhode Island from 1975 to 1984 and 1991 to 2002, is again running to be mayor of the Ocean State's capital city. The opening sentence at the Associated Press's Thursday morning story calls him a "twice-convicted felon who led Providence as mayor for 21 years," who is going "to run as an independent."
Local web news outlet GoLocalProv reports that"Cianci has filed papers Wednesday declaring his candidacy for Mayor of Providence - as an Independent." Cianci's Wikipedia entry indicates that he was a Republican from 1974 until December of 1982, and has been an independent for the past three decades. All of this makes it mystifying how a Google search on the former two-time mayor's name, as seen after the jump, could tag him as a Republican:
[UPDATE 16:00: Two and a half hours after posting, Reuters updated and used the word "Democrat."] According to Reuters, the ex-mayor of North Carolina's largest city admitted on Tuesday that he accepted bribes totaling at least $50,000 "in exchange for using his official positions to help people seeking to do business in the city." Yet the article by journalist Emily Harris avoided identifying Patrick Cannon as a Democrat.
Harris instead used generic terms for Cannon, referring to him as the "the former Charlotte mayor." Cannon is also accused of "taking bribes from the owner of an adult entertainment club and using his influence to help the business stay open despite being in the path of the city's new light-rail line." In contrast, Fox and Friends anchor Steve Doocy highlighted the former mayor's political party, noting, "The Democrat faces a maximum of 20 years in prison." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
On Wednesday, the Washington Post ran a news brief on page A3 about disgraced former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin, but the paper conveniently forgot to mention that Nagin is a Democrat. The blurb began, “A federal judge says that former New Orleans mayor C. Ray Nagin will have to pay the government more than $501,000 as a result of his conviction on bribery and other charges.”
The brief went on to mention Nagin’s 20-count conviction in February that included bribery, fraud, money laundering, and conspiracy. However, the former mayor’s party ID was nowhere to be found.
In September 2010, Lachlan Markay at NewsBusters put up a post entitled "Eight Dems Arrested in Bell, CA 'Corruption on Steroids' - Not a Single Mention of Party Affiliation From Media."
Almost four years later (!), reviews of search engine results and specific news stories on the sentencing of Robert Rizzo, the community's former city manager, are again returning no mentions of the fact that Rizzo is a Democrat.
It's no secret that the folks who run the New York Times are big fans of gun control. It turns out that they also favor controlling the use of the word "gun" in headlines about Democrats.
Over at National Review's Campaign Spot yesterday, regarding the news of Democratic California Senator Leland Yee's arrest, Jim Geraghty noted: "The New York Times greeted that news with a one paragraph summary on page A21 Wednesday with the headline: 'California: State Senator Accused of Corruption.'" That A21 one-paragrapher is an AP item. According to a long AP report on Yee's arrest, Yee, a longtime gun control advocate himself, is charged with "six counts of depriving the public of honest services and one count of conspiracy to traffic in guns without a license." In addition to burying the story in its back pages, let's look at what the Times did to the AP's original headline:
ABC, CNN, MSNBC and PBS on Wednesday and Thursday all covered the "shocking" corruption involving the Democratic mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. Yet, while talking about the tens of thousands of dollars in bribes he sought, none of these networks identified Patrick Cannon's political party. Only a Fox News host referred to him as a Democrat.
On ABC's Good Morning America, Amy Robach asserted, "Well, the mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina has resigned after being arrested during an FBI sting." On CNN's New Day, Christine Romans informed that undercover FBI agents "got the mayor to take almost $50,000 in bribes in exchange for favorable treatment by the city." In contrast, Fox News's Jamie Colby revealed, "There's another Democrat in trouble over accusations of corruption." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Here's another entry for the "name that party" file. Ambulance-chasing lawyer cum melodramatically hyper-partisan Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson (Fla.) has been accused by his estranged wife of violently shoving her during a dispute.
The Orlando Sentinel has the story. The paper buried the party affiliation at the tail-end of the article, but they at least mentioned the "die quickly!" demagogue's party affiliation. The Daily Beast website picked up on the item for it's "Cheat Sheet" digest [screen capture follows page break], but omitted any party reference in its 75-word brief [excerpted in full below the page break]:
Can MSNBC's Rachel Maddow go a single day without descending into laughable hackdom?
Any previous doubts about this were erased by her show last night. Mere seconds after she was introduced by colleague Chris Hayes, and after Maddow offered a chirpy "happy snow day" to viewers (this during one of the most brutal winters in memory), Maddow began her show with this -- "The administration of Republican North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has just been subpoenaed in conjunction with a federal criminal investigation." (Video after the jump)
Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin was convicted on 20 of 21 counts of corruption and bribery today.
USA Today reporter Rick Jervis did a bit of a profile of Nagin in the course of reporting on the convictions. It included a recounting of his time at the city's helm during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. But one thing his 2:39 p.m. report predictably did not include was Nagin's Democratic Party affiliation (bolds are mine):
Though there were some exceptions (e.g., this one caught by Geoffrey Dickens at NewsBusters a few days ago), most press reports as the beginning of the trial of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin tagged him as a Democrat.
Apparently, there's a quota on "D" references at the Associated Press. A lengthy AP story by Kevin McGaill carried at Time.com and AP's national site has no reference to Nagin's party affiliation. Nagin was part of the odd couple of Democrats (former Governor Kathleen Blance is the other) who failed to do what they needed to do to prepare New Orleans and the Bayou State for Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Excerpts from the longer Time story follow the jump (bolds identifying opportunites to identify Nagin's party affiliation are mine):
Within the span of 40 seconds, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams reported on two politicians caught in scandals, one a Republican the other a Democrat, but he gave the party affiliation of only one of the troubled politicians. Can you guess which one?
On the January 27 Nightly News, Williams reported that “Florida Republican Congressman Trey Radel has resigned effective tonight. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession.” In the very next news brief Williams announced: “A name from New Orleans’s recent past went on trial there today. Ray Nagin, mayor of the city during Katrina, in court on bribery charges.” Williams never noted Nagin was a Democrat. (video after the jump)
Let's get it out of the way up-front, and excuse the "too much information" element via the New York Post: New York State Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak is a Democrat who has been accused of having "tormented three workers with lewd antics such as sending a video of himself supposedly receiving oral sex, suggesting they shack up with him in hotels and ..." — sorry, readers who really want to know the final item will have to go to the link.
At the Albany Times Union, which appears to have been the paper which broke the story, reporter James M. Odato waited until the last of his 20 paragraphs to inform readers that "The Erie County Democrat represents the densely populated town of Cheektowaga." Naturally, the Associated Press's far briefer unbylined report did not note Gabryszak's party affiliation. Party ID-free excerpts from Odato's report follow the jump (HT JWF; bolds are mine):
This morning, Bob Filner (D) was sentenced to "90 days home confinement as punishment for three criminal charges connected to the sexual harassment scandal that ended his term as San Diego mayor," according to NBCSanDiego.com staffers Monica Garske and R. Stickney, who failed to mention Filner's Democratic Party affiliation in their story.
But Garske and Stickney are not alone among their peers in omitting Filner's party affiliation. Besides NBCNews.com -- which linked to the aforementioned NBC San Diego story -- ABCNews.com, and CNN.com all similarly left out reference to the California Democrat's party allegiance. CBSNews.com and FoxNews.com ran an Associated Press story which mentioned Filner's political persuasion in the final paragraph. MSNBC.com also omitted the Democratic label from their story, although, curiously, the story was filed under a "Democrats" topic tag (see screen capture below):
She had four paragraphs to work with, yet Time magazine's Madison Gray found no space to note disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s political affiliation.
The Illinois Democrat is in the news again today as he entered prison Tuesday morning to begin serving his 2 1/2-year long sentence. Here's how Gray reported it for the "Nation" section of his magazine's website:
All three networks on Thursday night and Friday morning highlighted the photographs of a gubernatorial candidate from Maryland at a teen party that featured underage teens and drinking. Yet, ABC failed to mention that Doug Gansler, the top tier candidate, is a Democrat.
ABC featured the most aggressive coverage. Reporter Jim Avila confronted the "would-be governor." While showing a photo that "Maryland's top cop...would love to forget," the journalist narrated, "The attorney general, right in the middle of teenage partiers, celebrating their high school graduation." At no time did the report, which aired on World News and Good Morning America, refer to Gansler as a Democrat. [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Fox News has coverage today of the guilty plea of Jeffrey Garcia, a former congressional chief of staff who "pled guilty Monday to one felony charge and three misdemeanor charges after admitting he illegally requested hundreds of absentee ballots while he was running the campaign for Rep. Joe Garcia, who he is not related to."
The Fox story indicates that the Associated Press contributed to its report. That's odd, because a search on "Garcia absentee" (not in quotes) at the AP's national site done at 11:30 a.m. ET came up empty. That's because AP has from all appearances treated Garcia's plea and sentencing as a Florida story unworthy of national notice, despite the fact that the gaming the electoral system and allegations of voter suppression have been a national discussion topic for years. The one unbylined AP story I did find was also ridiculously sympathetic to Jeffrey:
Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in prison yesterday. As has been the case for nearly six years as his scandals and prosecution have unfolded (seen here in dozens of NewsBusters posts), press coverage has usually avoided the inconvenient fact that Kilpatrick is a Democrat, and almost completely ignored Barack Obama's hearty endorsement of him during the early stages of his 2008 presidential campaign. A YouTube video from a May 2007 speech at the Detroit Economic Club shows Obama thanking Kilpatrick for "doing an outstanding job of gathering together the leadership at every level of Detroit, to bring about the kind of renaissance that all of us anticipate for this great city."
News outlets failing to note Kilpatrick's Democratic Party affiliation yesterday included the New York Times, CBS in Detroit, the Detroit Free Press in an item carried at USA Today, and Mike Tobin at Fox News. The Associated Press outdid itself in this regard, as will be explained after the jump.
When it comes to light that a prominent liberal Democrat has committed a series of sexual transgressions, there are two typical responses from media outlets: ignore the story and hope it goes away or spin it as best as they possibly can. The latter approach typically involves either highlighting how said politician and his wife are grappling with rebuilding their marriage and family or by virtually lamenting the emotional turmoil suffered by the adulterous pol as a result of his inability to control himself.
A textbook example of the latter was dutifully provided by Time magazine's Dan Kedmey in a September 9 post Swampland blog post headlined, "Report: In a Secret Journal, RFKJr. Records a Painful Struggle With 'Lust Demons.'"Kedmey picked up on a New York Post exclusive about a journal purportedly kept by Kennedy in which, "[o]n the days he resisted the temptation to have an affair, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. marked the occasion in his secret journal with a one-word exaltation: “Victory!” But on the days of defeat, the ink really began to flow across the page." Kedmey continued (emphasis mine):
Why should things change now? NBC and ABC on Thursday night and Friday morning yet again refused to identify San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, accused of sexually harassing 18 women, as a Democrat. ABC's Good Morning America devoted two segments to his impending resignation, but mentioned only "Mayor Bob Filner."
In contrast, GMA on Thursday hyped the controversy of the Lieutenant governor of Texas, a "rising Republican star," caught on a 911 call after he attempted to free his niece from jail. On Friday, only CBS This Morning identified Filner as a Democrat. Reporter Bill Whitaker interviewed the ex-fiancee of "Democrat Bob Filner." Whitaker explained, "They already shared a passion for progressive politics, the fight for the homeless, civil rights, immigrants."
Here's another name to add to the "name that party" file: Michael Thornsbury. The Mingo County, West Virginia circuit court judge was the subject of a federal indictment on Wednesday "after federal authorities allege he targeted his ex-lover's husband and used his position on the bench to manipulate criminal charges against the man," Kate White of the Charleston [W.V.] Gazette reported yesterday.
The Mountain State has partisan judicial elections and Thornsbury is a Democrat. Both ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today covered the bizarre story on their August 16 programs, but both neglected to mention Thornsbury's party affiliation.
Of the East Coast's most prestigious papers -- The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post -- only the Journal today failed to note Jesse Jackson Junior's Democratic Party affiliation, with staff writer Devlin Barrett failing to mention that fact in his 11-paragraph story. For their part, Washington Post staffers Ann Marimow and Rachel Weiner did mention Jackson is a Democrat, but that came 13 paragraphs into their 32-paragraph front-pager in the August 15 paper.
USA Today's "breaking news" email ("Ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. sentenced to 30 months") opened with the following opening sentence: "The nine-term Democrat from Illinois and son of the former civil rights leader had pleaded guilty in February to using $750,000 in campaign money to pay for living expenses, clothes and luxury items."
So it seemed like it would be a waste of time to click through to confirm that Jackson would be tagged as a Democrat in the story itself, right? Wrong. (UPDATE, Aug. 15: USAT revised the story and included a couple of Democrat references later in the day. The original as it appeared when this post was written is here.) USAT's Fredreka Schouten applied the "Democrat" tag once — to describe Mel Reynolds, the disgraced Congressman Jackson replaced in 1995, in her 18th paragraph. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine):
CBS This Morning and NBC's Today couldn't be bothered to give Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s political affiliation as they devoted just 35 seconds of air time on Wednesday to his upcoming sentencing. Both morning newscasts merely identified the onetime Democratic politician as a former congressman.
The same morning, ABC's Good Morning America completely ignored the story about Jackson, who pled guilty in February 2013 to misusing campaign funds to buy big ticket items, such as a $43,000 Rolex watch, and Michael Jackson memorabilia.
If a Republican were ensnared in a sex scandal, do you think MSNBC would have failed to mention his party and instead featured a photo of him with a smiling Nancy Pelosi? But the "Lean Forward" network might well have hoodwinked unwary viewers this morning into thinking that Democrat Bob Filner is a Republican.
Not merely did today's Morning Joe failed to identify Filner—the San Diego mayor with the octopus hands—as a Democrat. Instead, the show featured a photo of Filner with a smiling . . . . John Boehner. Guess the MJ staff couldn't find one of former congressman Filner with fellow Californian Pelosi. H/t NB reader Ray R. View the photo and video after the jump.
ABC and CBS both failed to point out San Diego Mayor Bob Filner's Democratic party affiliation on their Wednesday morning newscasts. Good Morning America devoted just one 17-second news brief to the ongoing Filner scandal. CBS This Morning didn't do much better, with two news briefs on the former congressman. NBC's Today didn't set aside any air time to the controversy.
The NBC morning show did one-up its Big Three competitors in identifying Anthony Weiner as a Democrat. Stephanie Gosk underlined the "Democratic drums are beating loudly for Anthony Weiner to step out of race for New York mayor", and noted the scandal-plagued politician's fourth-place standing among "likely Democratic primary voters". CBS This Morning and GMA merely labeled Weiner a "former congressman".
All three major networks ran full-length stories on their Saturday morning shows on the sex scandals involving San Diego Mayor Bob Filner and New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner. However, none of the networks directly identified either politician as a Democrat.
ABC’s Saturday edition of Good Morning America ran separate stories on each of the two men. Their two-and-a-half minute package on Filner made no mention of the mayor’s party affiliation, while the two-and-a-half minute story on Weiner merely hinted that the former congressman was a Democrat. There was a sound bite halfway through the story in which an angry female New Yorker exclaimed, “I’m suggesting wholeheartedly he ought to withdraw, and I am a Democrat.” Yet nobody from ABC ever referred to Weiner as a Democrat.
NPR loves to label individuals and groups—but not all the time. They usually want listeners to know who Republicans are, as they did incessantly last year with GOP Senate candidate Todd Akin. A piece about the North Carolina General Assembly righting an old wrong on the July 25 All Things Considered evening news show took a different approach, with reporter Julie Rose entirely omitting party designations.
North Carolina, like many other states, had an involuntary eugenics-based sterilization program for most of the 1900s. The program finally stopped in 1974. In the four intervening decades, the state did nothing to compensate victims. Last week, that changed with the passage of a bill establishing a fund for victims.