"Villaraigosa affair may not be one to remember," prophesied the July 7, 2007 headline in the L.A. Times. A year and a half later, the Associated Press danced around the Democratic Los Angeles mayor's adulterous liaison with a Spanish-language reporter assigned to the city hall beat.
From today's story on his March 3 re-election accessed at CBSNews.com (emphases mine), notice how the AP pulls its punches, euphemizing the adulterous affair in the 12th paragraph of the story:
The mayor of Los Angeles easily won re-election after a bumpy first term in the nation's second-largest city, fueling speculation that he will be among contenders next year to succeed Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, the first Hispanic mayor in more than a century, was rewarded Tuesday with a second, four-year trip to City Hall despite an uneven first term that saw the breakup of his marriage and the defeat of his signature plan to reform city schools.
On Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez spoke with lobbyist Vicki Iseman, who a year ago was named in a New York Times article implying she had an affair with then presidential candidate John McCain, an accusation Iseman flatly denied: "No, I did not. And four New York Times reporters, two editors, their entire institution, 200 people that they went out and sought to try and figure out if this was true or not, came back and said there's no there, there...They were calling friends and family and colleagues and former staffers, it was just -- people I'd hired and fired at my firm, it was nuts. It was just unbelievable...They became so invested in this that they couldn't walk away...this was just out of control, they just could not, for some reason, walk away."
While Iseman detailed how absurd the Times’ accusations were, Rodriguez still worked to give the paper the benefit of the doubt: "So everybody believed that you had an affair with him, even though the article, according to the Times, didn't mean to imply that and certainly didn't prove that, all of a sudden you were that girl?...You sued the New York Times, they printed a note to the readers that said ‘we never intended to imply she was having an affair with him.’ Where do you think they went so wrong? Because they have sources and they did try to contact you. Where do you think the New York Times failed here?
The Democrats campaigned to take over the reins of the majority in Congress by promising to "drain the swamp" of a "culture of corruption" by the Republican Party. Examples of Democratic corruption or self-dealing go largely unnoticed. For two weeks now, the national media has ignored a Los Angeles Times report that Rep. Grace Napolitano has paid herself more than $150,000 in interest on $150,000 she loaned herself in her initial 1998 House campaign. (The Whittier Daily News later amended that figure upward to $205,922.) With the exception of the Hannity show on Fox News, no one else in the national media has noticed. Andrew Zajac reported on February 14:
Rep. Grace F. Napolitano (D-Norwalk) has collected tens of thousands of dollars in personal income by charging double-digit interest on money she lent her campaign 11 years ago and soliciting donations from Washington lobbyists at "debt retirement" fundraisers.
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.
Appearing on Wednesday’s CBS Early Show, Evening News anchor Katie Couric discussed her White House interview with President Obama regarding the withdrawal of recent cabinet nominees: "He is surprisingly relaxed...extremely comfortable, very focused. It’s very different than sort of the buttoned-up Bush White House...he said to every person who interviewed him...that he ‘screwed up,’ he ‘messed up.’ And I think he really is trying to be the anti-Bush because President Bush was so criticized for never saying, you know, ‘I made a mistake.’" On Tuesday’s Evening News, Couric portrayed Obama as a victim.
Early Show co-host Harry Smith agreed with Couric and pointed out another criticism of the Bush administration: "There was also criticism of too much loyalty." Like Couric, Smith then praised Obama for being the "anti-Bush" and throwing Health and Human Services secretary nominee Tom Daschle under the bus: "...and here was Tom Daschle, who had been his mentor all these-" Couric interjected: "And he's been working on health care, by the way...for many, many months...And really focused on it. You know, President Obama reiterated that he thought Tom Daschle was the right man for the job, it was an honest mistake."
On Tuesday’s CBS Early Show, correspondent Bill Plante reported on Health and Human Services Secretary nominee, Tom Daschle, failing to pay taxes and working as a health care lobbyist: "Daschle's problem shines a light on something that usually stays in the shadows around here, and that is how connections work in Washington. When is a lobbyist not a lobbyist, and how does a power player, like the former Senate majority leader, not know that he owes back taxes?"
The report featured Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibilities and Ethics, who defended Daschle: "What Tom Daschle does is the more sophisticated kind of lobbying we have in Washington, where he's a consultant. And he talks to people about the strategy for getting a piece of legislation passed...Maybe the truth of the matter is, you need some of those Washington insiders in order to make your new government work. But then let's say that."
However, in a 2005 column by Ari Berman in the liberal magazine, The Nation, Sloan was quoted reacting to an ethics scandal surrounding Republican House majority Leader Tom Delay: "The fact that Tom DeLay is under criminal indictment and Senate majority leader Bill Frist is under criminal investigation is a historic first...This demonstrates the culture of corruption among the Congressional leadership that has become a cancer on our country." Berman’s column was posted on the CBS News website.
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."
During a breaking news brief on Friday’s Newsroom program, CNN anchor Kyra Phillips failed to identify the party affiliation of Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, a Democrat, who earlier in the day had been indicted on 12 counts related to a corruption probe by Maryland state officials. She did identify Dixon as “the first woman to serve as the city’s mayor” and “the first African-American female to serve as that city’s mayor.”
Phillips began the brief with a lament over corruption in politics in general: “Oh, as if we don’t have enough public corruption within our politics to report, we’ve got another piece of news that [is] just developing right now.” She then reported that the Baltimore mayor had been “indicted on public corruption...12 counts, I’m told -- perjury, theft, misconduct in office.” After describing some of the circumstances into the multi-year investigation, she continued her lament by focusing on the prestige of Dixon: “It’s a shame -- Mrs. Dixon was the first woman to serve as the city’s mayor -- also the -- you know, the first African-American female to serve as that city’s mayor.” The mayor’s Democratic affiliation was neither mentioned by Phillips during her brief, nor by CNN’s on-screen graphics.
"Good Morning America" hosts and reporters on Wednesday bewilderingly touted a total non-scandal, the "brewing brouhaha" over the new set of presidential dinnerware that President Bush and the first lady have ordered. Despite the fact that a private organization is paying the $485,000 bill, a salient point not revealed until late in the story, co-host Robin Roberts fretted, "So, why wait to give such an expensive gift right before they leave?" (If the plates are not taxpayer funded, what's the basis for the story?)
Veteran ABC reporter Ann Compton worried, "So, why is Laura Bush introducing new Bush china two weeks before they move out?" Compton even featured the Washington Post's Sally Quinn, not identified as a liberal in the report, to bash former President Ronald Reagan's china incident. Compton explained, "Washington veteran Sally Quinn recalls the furor when President Reagan was slashing the federal budget and his wife, Nancy, ordered $200,000 of scarlet china with the presidential seal in gold."
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."
In its opening half-hour, Good Morning America found time to tell us—twice—that Pres.-elect Obama choked up with emotion as he viewed his packed-up old home. But somehow ABC never got around to mentioning that a possible pay-to-play scheme was behind Bill Richardson's bye-bye as Commerce Secretary nominee.
After the show-opening roll in which the president elect was shown heading to DC, Robin Roberts literally bounced in her co-anchor's chair: "so excited, so excited, so excited . . . It's a new day, new year, new everything going on." Added Diane Sawyer helpfully: "And a president-elect." "Yes," concurred Robin, as if it wasn't clear that's what her excitement was really all about.
Then came the first mention of the Pres.-elect getting misty. Roberts: "He was home alone in Chicago. And one of Malia's friends came over and had a little scrapbook that he wanted delivered to his ten-year old, and he was flipping through it, and I would imagine, got a little choked up." When senior political correspondent Jake Tapper came on, he provided crucial additional details about the warm and fuzzy moment, complete with a clip of the president-elect recounting the story to reporters. But Tapper gave short shrift to the Richardson matter, and, appearing later, George Stephanopoulos was equally tight-lipped.
Although most media members used the occasion of Mark Felt's death on December 18 to praise the former FBI official better known as "Deep Throat," George Friedman of the geopolitical intelligence organization Stratfor warned readers about journalists becoming "tools of various factions in political disputes" as well as "the relationship between security and intelligence organizations and governments in a Democratic society."
As Friedman indicated, Felt is a pop hero to media members across the fruited plain.
The Associated Press called him an "inspiration to a generation of investigative journalists" the day after his death. The Washington Post wrote days later, "Without a single byline he inspired thousands and thousands of campus misfits to get journalism degrees."
Unlike an adoring press that's always interested in the next gotcha story regardless of the consequences, Friedman, ever the concerned citizen looking out for America's national security interests, didn't write about Felt's role in the Watergate scandal with such glowing praise (emphasis added throughout, h/t many NBers):
ABC can't be so naive as to believe it wasn't a carefully calculated publicity stunt. Surely the good folks at Good Morning America know it was anything but an invasion of privacy--that the Clintons wanted the world to see the image of a blissfully happy married couple tripping the sand fantastic. And yet . . .
GMA devoted a segment this morning to a collective tongue clicking in concern that the Obamas' privacy is being invaded by photographs taken during their current vacation in Hawaii. To lend historicial perspective, other instances of photograhic invasions of presidential privacy were aired, including the image displayed here. According to ABC's Yungi de Nies, who narrated the segment, the photographic invasion of vacation time was "something the Clintons had to get used to. They were spotted dancing in the sand on one vacation." "Spotted"? I suppose. In the same sense streakers are "spotted" running across football fields.
Two situations over the weekend illustrate that the Associated Press's habitual failure to identify the political party of Democrats in trouble is more than likely a conscious decision. This is despite the AP Stylebook's guidance (as of 2000, the latest free edition I can find; a PDF is here) that a reporter should "include party affiliation if readers need it for understanding or are likely to be curious about what it is."
In both of the instances I will cite, local papers decided that party affiliation was important enough to include. But AP reporters decided that they weren't, even though out-of-state readers are less likely to know the party affiliation of the politician(s) involved.
Associated Press writer Glen Johnson's story on the indictment of a close friend of Salvatore DiMasi, Massachusetts's Democratic Speaker of the House, is the latest in a long line of fairly long stories about Democratic politicians in trouble that fails to identify their party affiliation.
The story names a half-dozen politicians, all of whom are Democrats, without identifying the party of any of them. No variation of the word "Democrat" appears anywhere.
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.
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.
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?"
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):
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."