Networks Avoid Scandal-Plagued Democratic Senator Dropping Election Bid

Despite a combined eight available hours of programming on Friday, all three network morning shows avoided the news that a scandal-plagued Democratic senator from Montana dropped a reelection bid. This move leaves the seat as a likely Republican takeover in the 2014 midterms. But viewers wouldn't know that on ABC's Good Morning America, NBC's Today and CBS This Morning.  

John Walsh left the race on Thursday, two weeks after the New York Times reported that the Democrat plagiarized extensive sections of his master's degree from the Army War College. With the networks avoiding the story, it was left to CNN's New Day to offer a brief amount of coverage. John King wondered if the seat will "most likely" go to the GOP. Maggie Haberman of Politico retorted, "Oh, yeah...I mean, most Democrats that I talked to believe Montana is not winnable anymore." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]

What did the networks cover instead? GMA offered two minutes to the viral video of a bear walking upright. Today spent four minutes on how to be "50 and fabulous." This Morning devoted almost a minute to tourists in Britain retracing Abby Road, a street made famous by the Beatles 45 years ago. 

The New York Times, despite originally breaking the story, relegated Thursday's revelation to page A12. Writer Jonathan Martin explained: 

Monday is the deadline for Montana candidates to withdraw from the general election. The convention to replace Mr. Walsh on the ballot is expected to take place in Helena on Aug. 16.

Mr. Walsh, who had been set to face Representative Steve Daines, a Republican, was considered one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats, and Republicans were quick to suggest that his move would not affect the race.

The Washington Post also opted not to feature the story on the front page. On A2, Sean Sullivan noted: 

The New York Times reported last month that Walsh pulled a sizable part of a paper he submitted at the Army War College titled “The Case for Democracy as a Long Term National Strategy" from a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace document without attribution. The material was mostly used verbatim. Another chunk was pulled from a 1998 essay written by a Harvard scholar.

Thursday's evening newscasts also avoided the story

Considering the media's obsession with flawed Republican candidates, such as Todd Akin, it seems only fair that journalists devote a little coverage to damaged Democrats. 

A partial transcript of New Day's August 8 segment:  


7:33

JOHN KING: And out in Montana the appointed senator John Walsh has decided he will not run. He was appointed to the seat. He's involved in a plagiarism scandal right now and he's decided he will not to run. I think, does that add to the, most likely, a Republican seat there? 

MAGGIE HABERMAN: Oh, yeah. I think it was already leaning that way. But there was a sense that Walsh was beginning to get a little bit of wind beneath his wings and was coming back a bit. This essentially takes that out unless Democrats can nominate somebody who is really very right for the state, who is the right fit. They are having a hard time getting anybody who actually wants to be the person who is the place holder because you're sort of running for a lost cause. I mean, most Democrats that I talked to believe Montana is not winnable anymore. 

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org