You can just see the scene from the Wizard of Oz, where the wizard says ‘Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.'
When it comes to diverting attention from a scandal plagued home state, don't worry Senator Obama, USA Today has your back.
In a bizarre demonstration of spinning numbers with the sole purpose of getting people to look away from the recent Blagojevich scandal, John Fritze and others at USA Today took statistics from the Department of Justice and the U.S. Census Bureau, crunched them in the liberal media calculator, and decided they had proof that North Dakota is actually the most corrupt state in the nation.
CNN correspondent Jessica Yellin reversed course concerning her take on President-Elect Barack Obama’s “transparency” on the issue of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and the appointment of his successor in the U.S. Senate. During a segment on Wednesday’s Situation Room, Yellin criticized the outgoing Illinois senator for “not starting off on the foot he promised he’d start off on, which is more transparency and more candor than we’ve seen before.” Just under 17 hour later, minutes after Obama stated that he was “absolutely certain” that no one in his camp was involved in the governor’s alleged scheme to sell his senate seat, the CNN correspondent praised the president-elect: “I should also highlight...that he’s also set down a marker for transparency. He promised a transparent government...and he has revealed now much more than we usually hear in these kind of investigations scandals from a politician.”
Certainly delivering a unique take on the Blagojevich case, in a Thursday night story on why Illinois politics are so corrupt, NBC reporter Lee Cowan characterized the Governor of Illinois as a politician who “fell victim” to Chicago's political machine. Apparently, corruption was just irresistible. Cowan contended:
The Windy City is a political stew of characters, a cast of players that even Hollywood would envy. Governor Rod Blagojevich is just the latest squeaky wheel in Chicago's political machine. Although he promised to be different, he fell victim, prosecutors allege, to history.
Presumably, Cowan didn't intend to assign his own characterization – “victim” -- to prosecutors, and just meant that prosecutors allege Blagojevich has taken the same path as too many of his predecessors. Cowan followed with a soundbite from a local reporter, who explained: “If there isn't a deal behind the scenes, it almost makes life not worthwhile.”
What follows are the questions that President-elect Obama took today at his 11 a.m. news conference after formally announcing former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) as his choice for Health and Human Services Secretary.:
JACKIE CALMES, Wall Street Journal: Given the, in your statement when you addressed the controversy over Gov. Blagojevich, you did not repeat what your spokesman said yesterday about having him, that he should resign. Why did you not? And could you tell us what context, if any, you know that your staff or any emissaries for you have had with prosecutors or the FBI?
PHIL ELLIOTT, Associated Press: Thank you. Have you or anyone in your transition or campaign been intereviewed as it relates to the criminal complaint? And who is the transition advisor referenced in the complaint?
ABC was the only network to break into its daytime programming on Thursday with live coverage of Barack Obama’s press conference regarding the Wednesday arrest of Illinois’s Democratic Governor Rod Blagojevich. Neither CBS nor NBC interrupted regular programming to cover the press conference, during which Obama also named former Senator Tom Daschle as Health and Human Services secretary.
This lack of coverage is particularly odd because both CBS and NBC featured live coverage of past significant Obama press conferences. Since being elected to the presidency, Obama has held seven press conferences, including Thursday’s. CBS provided live coverage of three of them, Obama’s first on November 7, the announcement of Obama’s economic team on November 24, and the announcement of Obama’s national security team on December 1. Meanwhile, NBC covered five of the seven press conferences, the same as CBS, with the addition of a brief Obama press appearance on November 26 and the announcement of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson as commerce secretary on December 3. Apparently neither CBS nor NBC felt that Obama addressing a major corruption scandal in his home state was worthy enough to interrupt "The Price is Right" or local news.
On Wednesday’s The O’Reilly Factor on FNC, during the show’s regular "Miller Time" segment, comedian Dennis Miller used humor to make a serious point about Barack Obama’s connections to corrupt and questionable characters in Illinois, and whether the President-elect was aware of the darker sides of his colleagues. Miller: "It’s just nice to know that my President-elect went through that entire system – all of these guys – Ayers, Blagojevich, Rezko, the Reverend Wright – and he didn’t notice any of them. At his worst, he is oblivious. At his absolute worst, he is disingenuous. He had to know something about some of these guys. ... We’re told that he’s the smartest guy on the planet on one hand. In the other hand, he never noticed any of this stuff. Come on, get the antenna up there, Barack. You got to wake up."
Liberal-leaning Chicago Tribune columnist and blogger Eric Zorn is tired of politicians -- Democratic and Republican -- declaring that Gov. Rod Blagojevich's arrest was a "sad day" for Illinois.
The sad day, rather, was Wednesday, when Blago returned to work:
[I]n statement after statement, our gloomy pols were keening as though a great leader had fallen or an important factory had closed.
Perhaps this was their acknowledgment of the severity of the charges and the depths of the alleged betrayal of the people. Perhaps they felt it would be undignified to pump their fists and say "Yessssss!" as many of the rest of us did.
But look. There have been many sad days in Illinois political history.
The days when elected officials have pocketed kickbacks, payoffs and bribes, for instance.
President-elect Barack Obama's transition website Change.gov is censoring questions offered by readers about disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.
Although the "Open for Questions" page was launched Wednesday stating "The Obama-Biden Transition wants to hear from you," readers have been quick to shelter the president-elect from inquiries relating to Blago.
A simple typo, or has all the bleeping news out of Chicago liberated ABC to start using some salty language its own? Check out the screengrab from this morning's Good Morning America.
As correspondent Jim Avila came on to narrate a segment about Blago's wife Patty and the conflicts among her, her powerful Chicago pol father, and her husband, the screen graphic read, as you see, "GOVERNOR'S FAMILY FUED." Reading the transcripts of Blago and Patty's colorful conversations, I'll say they did! But surely GMA could have found a more G-rated way of reporting that ;-)
If naiveté were a crime, Jesse Jackson Jr. could be looking at a life sentence. Either that, or Senate candidate 5 wasn't being completely candid in his press conference this afternoon.
Jackson professed shock that Rod Blagojevich—a man who long before this week's arrest had a Katrina-sized cloud over his head—might have been conducting his Senate-seat search in accordance with anything but the most Mother Teresa-worthy standards.
Wednesday’s CBS Early Show worked hard to put as much distance as possible between Barack Obama and disgraced Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, as correspondent Chip Reid reported: "Barack Obama and Rod Blagojevich have both been leaders in Illinois Democratic politics for years, but long-time observers say that's about as far as the connection goes." Reid later dismissed Republican efforts to question Obama’s connection to the indicted Governor: "...that's not stopping the Republican National Committee from trying to tie the two men together...Despite the occasional photo together, though, linking them could be a tough sell."
In a segment that followed Reid’s report, co-host Harry Smith asked Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet: "Does any of this rub off on Barack Obama?" Sweet replied: "A little bit does. Because these are his -- this brings up the whole -- we're talking about the Senate seat for sale, but the criminal complaint does bring up Tony Rezko, it does bring up questions about the associations-" Smith interjected: "Which the Republicans tried so hard during the campaign to say Barack Obama is a Chicago politician." Sweet dispelled that characterization: "Right. And here's the thing, Obama does not come out of this culture."
"This is a pattern we've seen for many years, especially when it comes to scandal. We call it drop the (D). You see stories like this [Blagojevich]," all the time NewsBusters Senior Editor Tim Graham told FNC's Neil Cavuto. While some print outlets just bury the Democratic label deep within an article, "a lot of times on television we're not seeing that [the party label] at all. We've seen that in the Blagojevich coverage. You could have watched CBS today and not found a single mention," that the indicted Illinois Governor is a Democrat, Graham added. [download video here] [audio here]
Graham, the MRC's Director of Media Analysis, appeared on the December 10 "Your World" program to discuss the stark contrast between how the media ignore or downplay party labels for Democrats in trouble with the law, while trumpeting the Republican party affiliation of GOPers in legal or ethical hot water.
MRC President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell will appear on the Sean Hannity radio program later this afternoon. We're not certain about the time, but he will appear with FNC's Juan Williams to discuss how the media are not covering the Obama angle on the Rod Blagojevich scandal.
Note -- A related November 5 story at KHAQ in advance of the Obama-Blago meeting that is no longer available at KHAQ's site is here at my web host. It has been taken down from the related web site, and I believe its Google cache has also been removed.
(original post follows)
Yes indeed (content at original link was deleted; current link is to copy at my web host; HT to an e-mailer, who tells me that “this is (in) the newspaper from Quincy, IL from KHQA, a CBS affiliate”; bold is mine):
By Alexis Hunt Saturday, November 08, 2008 at 9:48 p.m.
Duckworth comments on consideration for Senate
QUINCY, IL -- Now that Barack Obama will be moving to the White House, his seat in the U.S. Senate representing Illinois will have to be filled.
Obama met with Governor Rod Blagojevich earlier this week to discuss it. Illinois law states that the governor chooses that replacement. There's already been speculation about his selection...from Congressman Jesse Jackson, Junior to Illinois Department of Veterans' Affairs Director Tammy Duckworth.
The three broadcast networks started their evening newscasts on Tuesday with stories on Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's arrest and corruption charges. All of the newscasts mentioned Blagojevich's Democratic affiliation, but only in passing. And, only ABC's World News questioned the details about the Illinois Governor's relationship with President-elect Barack Obama, while NBC and CBS brushed over the President-elect's connections with Blagojevich and seemed content to end their investigation of this relationship by reporting on Obama's statement that he was not aware of what was going on.
ABC and NBC both identified Blagojevich as a Democrat early in their reports. NBC "Nightly News" anchor Brian Williams's introduction to the report by 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." Brian Ross, reporting for ABC's "World News," identified the Illinois governor as "the boyish looking Democrat branded a greedy, foul mouth politician who tried to sell a US Senate seat to the highest bidder."
The CBS "Evening News," however, did not identify Blagojevich as a Democrat until the very end of Dean Reynolds's report when an on-screen graphic identified the governor as "(D) Illinois" and Reynolds claimed that "fellow Democrats worry that whoever he might pick could wind up tainted politically and could ultimately cost the party a valuable seat in Congress."
Former top Democratic aide-turned journalist George Stephanopoulos appeared on Wednesday's "Good Morning America" to downplay the connection between Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, charged with trying to sell a U.S. Senate seat, and President-elect Barack Obama. He helpfully argued that the profane references to Obama on the FBI's tapes indicate that "Blagojevich himself is the President-elect's best character witness."
Stephanopoulos and co-host Diane Sawyer did discuss the apparent contradiction between Obama's claim on Tuesday that he had "no contact" with the governor and chief spokesman David Axelrod's comments on November 23 in which he asserted, "I know he's talked to the governor." A very credulous Stephanopoulos explained, "Well, first of all, David Axelrod put out a statement late yesterday, where he said he simply misspoke there...That is backed up by everyone else on the team, as well." So, while an ABC graphic read, "Political 'Crime Spree': Will Allegations Affect Obama," the former Clinton aide obviously didn't think so.
This is just too perfect. Earlier today, noting that none of the network morning shows explicitly identified Rod Blagojevich as a Democrat, I wondered out loud how the MSM would treat a Republican in like circumstances. It's taken less than three hours to get our answer.
Let's preface this by saying that Norm Coleman is not, repeat not, the target of an investigation. To mention him anywhere within a million miles of Blago is unfair. I'm citing the MSNBC coverage just for purposes of illustrating the double standard. At about 11:20 AM ET, here's how Contessa Brewer threw it to Norah O'Donnell.
CONTESSA BREWER: Let's head over to Norah now, live at the politics desk, with more on a potential problem for GOP Senator, and the incumbent here in Minnesota, Norm Coleman. Norah.
If Rod Blagojevich were a Republican, what's the over-under on the number of times the network morning shows would have mentioned that fact in their coverage today?
But Blago is a Democrat. So how often did Today, Good Morning America and the Early Show explicitly identify him as such during their opening half-hours today? Not once. The closest any came were references at Today and Early Show today to "Democratic politics" and one at GMA to "the Democratic Chicago machine." Speaking of GMA, George Stephanopoulos, appearing there, put in the most embarrassingly sycophantish performance of the morning.
President-elect Barack Obama's decision to keep a distance from his state's governor, who was arrested on corruption charges on Tuesday, should enable him to escape becoming tainted by the scandal, analysts said.
Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich stands accused of trying to sell the president-elect's vacant U.S. Senate seat for financial and other personal benefits for himself and his wife, among other charges.
And who precisely are these analysts expecting Obama to avoid the connection?
If Gov. Blagojevich does not resign immediately, impeach him.
This is the inescapable conclusion that comes after reading Tuesday’s 76-page criminal complaint against the governor alleging a runaway crime spree of political corruption.
Even if the governor were found not guilty of every accusation against him — and given the apparent weight of the evidence against him, we’re not taking any bets — the criminal charges would cripple his already limited ability to lead Illinois.
The newspaper's editorial conveniently overlooks that Milorad Blagojevich is a Democrat. It also ignores that only two years ago the Chicago Sun-Times endorsed him. Its October 20, 2006 editorial, "Blagojevich for governor," took passing note of ethical problems and decided they were of little consequence:
On Tuesday’s Situation Room, CNN host Wolf Blitzer tried to downplay the significance of the arrest of the Democratic governor of Illinois Rod Blagojevich by making an unequivocal statement about Republicans: “You know, most of the scandals -- most of the political scandals...in recent years have involved Republicans...and they’re all pretty well-known.” He continued by labeling the Democrat’s apprehension a “huge embarrassment.”
Blitzer made the remark to Karen Finney, the communications director for the Democratic National Committee, during the regular “Strategy Session” segment. Finney appeared with Republican strategist John Feehery, and the three discussed the political implications of Blagojevich’s arrest. Besides this most recent development, the CNN host only mentioned the recent defeat of Louisiana Representative William Jefferson as an example of a political scandal involving a Democrat.
The mainstream media aggressively covered the controversies surrounding Republicans such as Mark Foley and Jack Abramoff and speculated about their connections to President Bush and other high profile members of the GOP. So, it will be interesting to see how tenaciously journalists investigate any linkage between President-elect Barack Obama and scandal ridden Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, now under arrest for allegedly trying to sell the selection of Obama's replacement to the Senate.
ABC Senior White House correspondent Jake Tapper [see file photo above] outlined the connections in a post on Political Punch. It seems that in addition to then-state senator Obama endorsing the Illinois governor in 2002 (Blagojevich returned the favor in 2004), Tapper noted that Obama's insistence on Tuesday afternoon that he "had no contact" with the governor's office on his replacement doesn't match previous comments from the incoming administration. According to senior advisor David Axelrod on November 23, 2008, "I know he's talked to the governor and there are a whole range of names many of which have surfaced, and I think he has a fondness for a lot of them." [Emphasis added.]
[UPDATE: During the 6:30pm ET feed of ABC's World News, Tapper appeared on screen and anchor Charles Gibson asked him about the contacts between Blagojevich and Obama's transition office. But the audio failed and, after two attempts to talk to Tapper, the newscast moved on. Maybe it will be corrected in the 7pm ET feed.]
Sure, the sitting Democratic governor of Illinois has been arrested and charged with attempting to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat. But enough about that. Jay Leno is starting his show 90 minutes earlier!!
Yes, a bit after 1 PM today, MSNBC actually pre-empted its Blago coverage to go to a news conference at which NBC honchos, with Leno present, announced that the Tonight show host would be moving from 11:30 to 10 PM.
Andrea Mitchell was in the midst of a serious dialogue with Pete Williams, when someone apparently whispered in the NBC justice correspondent's ear . . .
Much as when then-New York Governor Eliot Spitzer was caught with a prostitute last March, the arrest Tuesday of Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on allegations he was trying to sell Barack Obama’s vacated U.S. Senate seat raises the issue of whether or not the Big Three networks will forthrightly tag him as a “Democrat.”
Among wire services, the Associated Press has included the “Democrat” label in its round-up, but not in the lead paragraph, while Reuters linked Blagojevich to "fellow Democrat President-elect Barack Obama."
So what would happen if the corruption charges were flung at a Republican Governor of Illinois?
I'm looking for the first MSM wag who will have the gumption to suggest that Rod Blagojevich, the Dem Illinois governor accused of trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat, should have put it on Ebay.
Suggested MSM defense of Blago: hey, even with the bailouts, car czars and other government intervention in the economy, we're still trying to encourage the free market system, aren't we?
Updated below: CNN.com now noting Blago's Democratic affiliation
An unsigned CNN.com article on Tuesday which broke the news that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich had been arrested by federal authorities omitted his Democratic party affiliation. Both Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris face conspiracy and bribery charges related to the appointment of Barack Obama’s successor to his Senate seat.
The article did describe the accusations against the Illinois governor and his aide in detail. Among other things, Blagojevich is accused of trying to obtain “a substantial salary for himself at a either a non-profit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions; placing his wife on paid corporate boards where he speculated she might garner as much as $150,000 a year; promises of campaign funds -- including cash up front; [and] a Cabinet post or ambassadorship for himself.”