Posted on the Chicago Sun-Times's Web site today is "The rise and fall of Rod Blagojevich," written by Carol Marin, the newspaper's political columnist. Illinois's former Democratic governor is heading to the Federal pen this week, and Marin writes "he had surrounded himself with con men and creeps." She names a few, most notably convicted influence peddler Tony Rezko. She ignores a man who had a substantial role in elevating Blagojevich to the governor's office, Barack Obama.
In a 2008 New Yorker accounting, Ryan Lizza wrote:
Wednesday afternoon, Matthew Balan at NewsBusters noted that two of the three network morning shows failed to mention disgraced former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's Democratic Party affiliation.
Not that it's an excuse, but what was probably their primary raw material, namely three Tuesday reports from the Associated Press, completely failed to tag Blago as a Democrat, specifically the following (idea HT to NB commenter "trak65"):
The Big Three network morning shows on Wednesday highlighted the upcoming sentencing of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, but only CBS's Early Show identified the disgraced politician as a Democrat and devoted a full segment to him. ABC's Good Morning America and NBC's Today omitted his party ID, and just gave news briefs on the convict's possible sentence.
CBS correspondent Cynthia Bowers wasted little time before noting that "the former Democratic governor was convicted on 18 counts of corruption, after being caught on a profanity-laced federal wiretap offering political favors in return for financial gain." Bowers played two sound bites from the wiretap recording, including the infamous "bleeping golden" clip from Blagojevich.
Maybe it's the sheer joy of celebrating recovery summer along with The Anointed One and Plugs Biden. Perhaps they're just Blagoed out. Whatever the reason, most of the mainstream media failed to report something intriguing said by the usually most quotable former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. From an FBI tape recorded last November and appearing on Fox Chicago News's Web site, Blagojevich spoke of president-elect Barack Obama:
BLAGOJEVICH I thin-, you know, it's really, I get that I'm a big boy and I can handle that, but it's really f***ing galling, this guy is more Tony'd up than I am. And it's almost like they f***ing conspi-, made a concerted effort and they got the Chicago media to f***ing make me wear Rezko more. To f***ing dilute it from him.
Blago's disillusionment with Obama stemmed from a rebuff conveyed by a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) official used by the president-elect to let the Gov know of Obama's interest in Valerie Jarrett filling his Senate seat.
The Pentagon rescinded the invitation of evangelist Franklin Graham to speak at its May 6 National Day of Prayer event because of complaints about his previous comments about Islam.
The Military Religious Freedom Foundation expressed its concern over Graham's involvement with the event in an April 19 letter sent to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. MRFF's complaint about Graham, the son of Rev. Billy Graham, focused on remarks he made after 9/11 in which he called Islam "wicked" and "evil" and his lack of apology for those words.
Col. Tom Collins, an Army spokesman, told ABC News on April 22, "This Army honors all faiths and tries to inculcate our soldiers and work force with an appreciation of all faiths and his past comments just were not appropriate for this venue."
Blago and Burris, Sitting in a tree, But they'd rather we not know their political party.
There has been yet another revelation about contacts between Democratic President Barack Obama's U.S. Senate successor, Democrat Roland Burris and former Illinois Democratic governor Rod Blagojevich over Blago's pre-Senate appointment, uh, deliberations. A released FBI audio recording reveals that Burris offered to make a campaign contribution to Blago as he lobbied to be selected.
This news has brought on yet another wave of stories that fail to tell us what party Blago and Burris belong to.
The Washington Post is the only publication that identified the party of both men in the course of reporting their story. The Post's Peter Slevin and Perry Bacon Jr. also identified the Democratic Party affiliation of the Senate Ethics Committee's Barbara Boxer:
On Monday’s CBS Evening News, correspondent Nancy Cordes reported on perjury allegations against Illinois Senator Roland Burris and calls for his resignation: "Burris admits he did much more than just talk to one person, in fact, he says he talked to four other people with close connections and took three phone calls from the ex-governor's brother about raising money. In the down and dirty world of Illinois politics, some Republicans are calling on him to resign."
In addition to bashing Illinois Republicans, Cordes’s report featured CBS legal analyst Andrew Cohen, who argued: "From a purely legal point of view, it is not a strong perjury case. All it does is suggest that Mr. Burris was a little bit more involved in all of this than he initially claimed to be."
In contrast, in January 2007, Cohen described perjury charges against Vice President Cheney’s former chief of Staff Scooter Libby this way: "The whole thing reminds me of an experience I had in law school. I was serving as a ‘baby’ public defender and one of my ‘clients’ was a man, already incarcerated, who was being brought up on new charges that he stole a car. "I didn't steal that car," he said to me. ‘Great,’ I said. ‘That's great. Can you tell me what did happen?’ ‘You don't understand,’ he said to me, "I'm a crack dealer. I don't do that petty car (stuff).’ That is darn close to what Libby and his lawyers are saying. He was an architect and implementer of (mostly failed) foreign policies, the defense goes, and thus did not have time, inclination or criminal state of mind to be guilty of the petty offense of perjury and obstruction of justice."
Monday morning show coverage of allegations that Illinois Senator Roland Burris may have perjured himself with respect to connections to impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich minimized calls for investigation or Burris’s resignation. On the CBS Early Show, correspondent Thailia Assuras explained: "State Republican lawmakers are calling for Senator Roland Burris to resign and be investigated for perjury...The U.S. Senate could move to expel Burris, but analysts say that's unlikely to happen. It's not the kind of distraction Senate Democrats need as they try to move forward the president's agenda."
On NBC’s Today, correspondent Lee Cowan had a similar take: "...some Republican lawmakers here are now calling for Senator Burris to resign. At the very least, some want to see a criminal investigation launched to see whether or not he perjured himself. As for his colleagues in the U.S. Senate, so far they're reserving judgment." ABC’s Good Morning America barely mentioned the controversy, only offering one 15-second news brief on the story. In addition to downplaying the issue, none of the three morning shows mentioned that Burris was a Democrat. Only the Early Show featured an on-screen graphic with ‘Illinois (D)’ next to Burris’s name while playing a clip of the Senator.
Seven weeks after his arrest for allegedly attempting to peddle Barack Obama’s Senate seat, Rod Blagojevich was removed as governor of Illinois on Thursday. ABC, CBS and NBC all offered full reports last night and this morning, but none of the anchors or reporters provided any hint that Blagojevich was a Democrat.
Back on December 9, reporting on the then-governor’s arrest, NewsBusters noted how all three of the evening newscasts had properly referred to Blagojevich as a Democrat. NBC reporter Lee Cowan described the charge as “that the two-term Democratic Governor tried to sell a seat in the US Senate to the highest bidder,” while ABC’s Brian Ross stated that “the boyish-looking Democrat branded a greedy, foul mouth politician who tried to sell a US Senate seat to the highest bidder.”
But now that the scandal was ending Blagojevich’s political career (he’s now banned from ever serving in public office in Illinois), the networks have dropped the (D) from the story. A round-up of some of the coverage, starting with Thursday’s evening newscasts:
Quinn comes in with a squeaky clean reputation at a time when the past two governors have faced serious federal charges.
An Illinois Democrat with a squeaky clean reputation? Now that is news. It also conflicts with assertions made by Illinois Senator Dick Durbin in 1996, when he faced Quinn in the party's primary. The (Springfield, IL) State Journal-Register covered a February debate:
On Tuesday’s CBS ‘Early Show,’ embattled Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was interviewed over the course of two segments, totaling 10 minutes, and was never described as a Democrat. Co-hosts Maggie Rodriguez, Harry Smith and Julie Chen all spoke with the governor at some point and none mentioned his political party. The only acknowledgment of the governor’s party affiliation was in an on-screen graphic that featured a ‘(D) Illinois’ label. A mention of Blagojevich’s political party was similarly lacking on Thursday’s Good Morning America on ABC.
In addition to Early Show hosts failing to note that Blagojevich was a Democrat, none of them asked the governor about any discussions he had with President Obama or other administration officials about filling Obama’s vacant Senate seat. In the second segment in the 7:30AM half hour, Blagojevich declared: "I want to bring Congressman Rahm -- president's chief of staff, my congressman, Rahm Emanuel...I want to bring Valerie Jarrett, who's a high-ranking official in the Obama administration." However, there was no follow-up question to clarify the connection those Obama administration officials had with Blagojevich. Despite such a lack of journalist curiosity, Julie Chen exclaimed at the top of the show: "Blago live. He's faced Larry and Barbara, but his toughest interview is ahead this morning."
On Monday's "Good Morning America," the ABC morning show featured four segments on scandal-ridden Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich. And over the course of 17 minutes and 38 seconds, not one host or reporter mentioned his party affiliation. Co-host Diane Sawyer interviewed Blagojevich for two segments and simply referred to him as the governor or Governor Blagojevich.
The Illinois politician, who is accused of attempting to sell the former Senate seat of now-President Barack Obama, was identified in an onscreen graphic only. It read "(D) Illinois." (A more effusive graphic, which appeared during the show's opening tease, screamed, "Illinois Governor, Live!") But neither Sawyer, nor reporter Chris Bury (who filed two additional segments on the topic), actually used the word Democrat. In fact, the only time it came up was during the second interview when Blagojevich himself referred to "my fellow Democrats."
ABC reporter David Wright on Tuesday appeared on "Good Morning America" and charitably compared Illinois Senator-designate Roland Burris to the title character of Frank Capra's classic film "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington." At the same time, Wright suggested that the Senate leadership, which plans on blocking the entry of Burris, might unfavorably be linked to Ronald Reagan's former Secretary of State, Al Haig.
After asserting that the potential senator, appointed by scandal-ridden Governor Rod Blagojevich, "is being treated like a tourist," Wright made his movie analogy. He explained, "Not since Mr. Smith came to Washington in that old Frank Capra film has an idealistic senator appointed by a corrupt party boss been so unwelcome at the capitol. But at least Mr. Smith got his seat." He added that "the leadership clearly hopes Burris will come off as presumptuous, as Secretary of State Al Haig did after Ronald Reagan was shot."
Looking for a column loaded with racism, hyperbole, praise for a man embroiled in scandal, and an obvious disregard for the integrity of a Senate seat? Then you're in luck if you've read Ruben Navarrette's latest efforts.
Completely dropping the ball on why some people are apprehensive about any appointment that Rod Blagojevich could make for the vacant Senate seat, Ruben litters his article with some stunning phrases - statements which heap praise upon the disgraced Illinois Governor. Such phrases as:
Lynn Sweet wants the Obama team to come clean over its contacts with Blago. David Shuster has a different concern. He's hoping the media won't get "adversarial" once the Obama folks get around to releasing their report about who said what to whom.
Shuster made his pre-emptive plea for good media manners on this evening's 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the MSNBC show Shuster has recently begun hosting now that David Gregory has moved on to Meet The Press.
Sweet, of the Chicago Sun-Times, began with a reasonable reporter's take on the pending release by Team Obama of its accounting of contacts between the President-elect's representatives and Blago and his minions: take your time but be complete. In contrast, Shuster's focus was his demand for media decorum and desire to exculpate Rahm Emanuel before even learning the facts.
ABC News is reporting that an attorney that did undercover work for the FBI in the 1980's told federal authorities decades ago that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich ran an illegal gambling operation and payed the mob a street tax in order to operate. (see update below)
Former mob lawyer and Chicago cop Robert Cooley was so credible as an FBI informant that his work netted 24 corrupt judges, lawyers and cops in operation Gambat. Yet ABC news elected not to report the story during Blagojevich's 2006 re-election campaign because Cooley wanted to remain anonymous and the Governor denied the allegation.
"When I was working with government wearing wire, I reported, I observed Rod, the present governor, who was running a gambling operation out in the western suburbs. He was paying street tax to the mob out there," said Robert Cooley, federal informant.
On a web-based interview show last week, Cooley said he reported to federal authorities nearly two decades ago that Rod Blagojevich had been operating an illegal sports gambling business.
Robert Cooley is a former Chicago police officer-turned mob lawyer-turned federal informant. During Operation Gambat in the late 1980's and early 1990's, Cooley's undercover work and testimony put away 24 crooked politicians, judges, lawyers and cops.Several years ago, when Mr. Blagojevich was running for re-election, Cooley provided the same information to the ABC7 I-Team. Because Cooley did not want to be identified at the time and the governor denied it, ABC7 did not report the story.
The first of just three questions asked of Barack Obama at his December 17 press conference [audio available here]:
CYNTHIA BOWERS, CBS News Chicago correspondent: I have a question. You ran on a platform of transparency. How difficult is all this having to wait to release your inquiry business when the American people expect transparency?
Yes, you read that correctly. Bowers prompts Obama for an answer wherein he can lament having to wait to answer questions about the nature of his interaction with indicted Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.).
Perhaps the lap dog media are cowering in the corner after Obama yesterday swatted Chicago Tribune's John McCormick on the proverbial nose for his Blagojevich question. Bowers has covered Chicago for CBS News since 1999 and hence seen the president-elect rise from relative obscurity to the highest office in the land.
What a difference an administration makes. During the Bush years, if a spokesman or the president himself attempted to dodge a tough question, the media would go into their Sam Donaldson impressions and pundits would see a conspiracy of silence.
But now that it's Obama, the dodging that was once denounced is suddenly celebrated. Thus, appearing on today's Morning Joe, Larry O'Donnell declared "impressive" Pres.-elect Obama's stiff-arming yesterday of a reporter who dared asked Blago-related questions.
The video clip also includes a gratuitous bit of nastiness from Obama adviser David Axelrod aimed at Mika Brzezinski.
On CNN anchor Campbell Brown’s “No Bias, No Bull” program on Monday evening, New York Daily News columnist Errol Louis and Time magazine editor-at-large Mark Halperin agreed that there was no problem with the transition team of President-Elect Barack Obama delaying the release of their internal findings into their contacts with the office of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. Louis saw “nothing but pluses” over this decision, as it would push the release into Christmas week, a time where there “won’t be a lot of viewership.” Halperin emphasized that as long as “there are no embarrassing contacts or politically-sensitive contacts, they’re fine.”
Louis and Halperin participated in a panel discussion, which began 18 minutes into the 8 pm Eastern hour of the CNN program, along with Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard. Brown first posed the following question to Louis: “As we have been talking about, the U.S. attorney asked Barack Obama, the transition team, to delay releasing their internal findings for at least a week, until they have had a chance to do interviews of their own -- probably some pluses to that for Obama, as well as minuses. What do you think?”
President-elect Barack Obama said Monday a review by his own lawyer shows he had no direct contact with Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about the appointment of a Senate replacement, and transition aides did nothing inappropriate.
Obama pledged to make the review public, but said he decided to hold off because prosecutors asked for a delay and "I don't want to interfere with an ongoing investigation." U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald released a statement confirming the request.
By contrast, back in October when Gov. Sarah Palin (R) released her own report denying impropriety in her firing of Alaska's public safety commissioner, the AP noted that "Palin Pre-Empts State Report, Clears Self in Probe." As e-mail tipster Matt Healy observed in his e-mail:
On Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez discussed the potential impeachment of disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich with Democratic Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky and asked: "You've been calling for impeachment proceedings since the day after this scandal broke. Why? What happened to innocent until proven guilty?" Schakowsky explained: "No, this isn't about the legal process. This is about the governor being unable to govern right now. This is really a political question. Right now, our state is without the leadership that we need and so, of course, he'll be innocent until proven guilty in the courts."
This is not the first time Rodriguez gave the benefit of the doubt to a Democratic official embroiled in scandal. In March, Rodriguez defended the disgraced Mayor of Detroit, Kwame Kilpatrick, who was accused and later convicted of perjury, regarding sexually explicit text messages. At the time, Rodriguez asked the prosecutor in the case: "But texting and actually doing are two different things. Is innuendo evidence?"
During a report on Monday morning’s Newsroom program, CNN correspondent Jim Acosta used a clip of Sean Hannity from Fox News Channel, along with clips from two of their resident Obama defenders, to outline how Blagojevich corruption scandal was a “distraction” for President-Elect Barack Obama. The graphic on-screen throughout the report even stated how the scandal was “Distracting Obama.”
Acosta began his report with an online ad from the Republican National Committee, which highlighted “Obama’s past ties to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and questioning the president-elect’s handling of the scandal” and how “[c]omplete with eerie music -- this...website video has the feel of a campaign attack ad.”
The CNN correspondent then noted how “not all Republicans approve the message,” including Senator John McCain, who suggested that Republicans “should try to be working constructively together” with the incoming administration instead of focusing on possible connections to Blagojevich. Acosta continued on this point by introducing the Hannity clip: “Even conservative Sean Hannity has noted what federal prosecutors have made clear, that there are no allegations of wrongdoing facing the next president.”
The media defense of disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and corruption in politics continued Sunday morning as new "Meet the Press" host David Gregory, along with his guests, actually defended Blago's actions as "pay to play" business as usual that's just "part of the system" and "how the world works."
Such seems an astounding about face from the press's disgust and incessant focus on the so-called "Republican culture of corruption" that surrounded the reporting of former Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay's travails in 2006, as well as the attention given to Jack Abramoff the same year in order to assist the Democrat takeover of both chambers of Congress that November.
Amazingly, two years later, the corruption in Illinois involving not only a Democrat governor, but also having some links to folks connected to the newly-elected Democrat president-elect, are just "part of the system" and "how the world works" (video embedded below the fold, relevant section at 4:20, file photo):
QUIJANO: But, Betty, the question remains, when is it exactly that the president-elect and his team will disclose what contacts there actually were between their camp and people within the governor's office? What is taking so long? The president-elect said yesterday his staff was looking into it and would release that list in the coming days. So we continue to wait for that -- Betty.
I have never spoken to the governor on this subject. I'm confident that no representatives of mine would have any part of any deals related to this seat. I think the materials released by the U.S. attorney reflect that fact.
I've asked my team to gather the facts of any contacts with the governor's office about this vacancy so that we can share them with you over the next few days.
In today's "You've Got To Be Kidding Me" moment, PBS's Jim Lehrer actually defended the corrupt actions of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich Friday asking his guests, "What's the big deal here?"
I kid you not.
During his discussion with regulars Mark Shields and David Brooks on Friday's "News Hour" the subject of Blago arose, and Lehrer took what has to be considered an absurd position on this issue (video available here with relevant section at 6:00, partial transcript follows, h/t Mike Francesa via NB reader John F.):
Which would be the safer place to be for a political figure who's received death threats?:
a. A school concert in a public venue. b. A press conference in the company of the President-elect of the United States of America.
If you answered 'b,' you're thinking like me and presumably most people. If you answered 'a,' you're A.B. Stoddard. The associate editor of "The Hill" offered up the strange excuse that death threats are preventing Rahm Emanuel from attending press conferences in the course of an MSNBC appearance this afternoon during which she also claimed that "President-elect Obama is taking steps to be as forthcoming and as open and as transparent as he promised he would be."
Several mainstream media accounts suggest that about the only thing Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich have in common is they both live in Illinois. Today at the Washington Post's Web site, for example, we learn that "Obama Worked to Distance Self From Blagojevich Early On." The article begins by noting that the Illinois governor, unlike other major state Democratic politicians, wasn't allowed to address this year's national convention. There was at least one good reason for that, although it wasn't covered by today's Washington Post. Lynn Sweet of the Chicago Sun-Times explained it last August:
The Obama campaign on Tuesday afternoon released more speakers for the second night of the Democratic convention in Denver, a batch of Democratic governors. Missing from the list: the first governor to back Obama, his homestate Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Blagojevich, who threw a heck of a party in Boston in 2004, has had no profile in the Obama campaign because of the scandals surrounding his administration, notably the Tony Rezko probe.
Because of Rezko, I never, ever expected Blagojevich to be tapped to speak.