Perhaps the most frustrating aspect of this government shutdown has been the inability of the average person to get a handle on what's really going on.
Outfits like the network evening news shows, the Associated Press, the New York Times and others compose their spin, and almost invariably tilt their coverage towards the Obama administration and Democrats; developments favoring the GOP and conservatives, if mentioned at all, get washed away. Two examples from today of shutdown settlement ideas President Barack Obama rejected will prove the point.
MSNBC’s Morning Joe spent nearly half of their Wednesday program covering the latest revelations in the Anthony Weiner scandal, yet never once mentioned that the disgraced former congressman and New York City mayoral candidate is a Democrat. The panel was extremely critical of Weiner and his candidacy, but apparently did not consider the candidate’s political affiliation to be of any importance to the story.
But while the (D) label was never applied to Weiner – save for one graphic showing a Democratic primary poll – the MSNBC show did have time to squeeze in two partisan labels – one for Republican Senator David Vitter and one for Democratic Congressman Barney Frank, in a round-up of other scandal-scarred politicians. In that same round-up, Democrat Bill Clinton was, like Weiner, not labeled.
On Wednesday's All In show, MSNBC host Chris Hayes again claimed that House Republicans are waging a "jihad" in trying to cut the food stamp program, asserting that "the GOP's jihad on those in need gets uglier every single day."
The MSNBC also fretted again over the possibility that violent felons may lose benefits while MSNBC contributor Joy Reid tried to link racism against minorities to the battle over food stamps. Reid:
On Friday's All In show on MSNBC, host Chris Hayes recounted the recent activities of several Republican political figures which he regarded as examples of GOP members "being jackasses," and coined the Hayes-ism "jackassery" as he used some variation of the word "jackass" 11 times during the segment. After teasing the show, the MSNBC host immediately got to attacking Republicans:
Bill Clinton has done hundreds of TV interviews since leaving office in 2001, and journalists have very rarely found it appropriate to revisit his sex scandals. But for CNN, Republicans merit an entirely different standard of coverage.
On Monday's Early Start, co-host Ashleigh Banfield insisted to Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) that "I got to" bring up his 2007 prostitution scandal, so she could ask how Newt Gingrich could "manage the baggage" of his personal sex life. Vitter fired back that "the good news is, in America, it's not up to CNN" how the GOP presidential nominee is chosen. [Video below the break. Click here for audio.]
That Rachel Maddow of MSNBC and Chris Hayes of The Nation may be perpetuating the Weiner scandal apparently has not occurred to them.
Maddow told Hayes last night that she could understand why Republicans were calling for Congressman Anthony Weiner to resign, but she was at a loss to understand why his fellow Democrats in Congress were doing likewise (video clip after page break) --
Chris Matthews on Friday made the absurd claim the "compassionate" Left is too soft on Republican wrongdoers, and that by contrast the Right puts it's "heel into the back of the guy's head when he's down."
The "Hardball" host - with a straight face no less - said this to guests Ron Reagan and Politico's Roger Simon with reference to how the "right-wing press played up [Charlie] Rangel's censure" (video follows with transcript and commentary):
MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan is apparently so intent on depicting Republican candidates for office as stupid that he's willing to make asinine assertions to do it.
Today in his "Ads Gone Bad" segment, Ratigan falsely insisted that an ad by Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) attacking his Democratic opponent Rep. Charlie Melancon communicated to viewers that "illegal immigrants [were] crossing the border into Louisiana."
John Avlon of the Daily Beast gave his “Wingnuts of the Week” on Friday’s American Morning on CNN, and omitted the Democratic past of his “wingnut” on the right- Lousiana justice of the peace Keith Bardwell, who recently denied a marriage license to an interracial couple. Avlon didn’t give judge’s party ID at all, and gave the impression that he was on the “right” merely because of his racist conduct.
The Daily Beast writer appeared just after the bottom of the 6 am Eastern hour with anchor Kiran Chetry, who asked the “independent analyst,” as she labeled him, to begin with his choice for “wingnut” on the right: “Wingnut on the right, as you said, Louisiana Justice of the Peace Keith Bardwell, who denied a marriage certificate to an interracial couple, saying he was doing it for the kids. Maybe he was concerned they’d grow up to be president.” Avlon never gave Bardwell’s party ID during the segment. Perhaps its because he was a Democrat during most of his career. He only became a Republican last year, according to a Louisiana state government website.
On Monday’s Tonight Show on NBC, Jay Leno incorrectly called New York’s former Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer a Republican during the show’s monologue as he joked about Republican sex scandals. Inspired by John McCain’s daughter Meghan’s recent declaration that she is a "pro-sex Republican," Leno used her comment to poke fun at Republican Senator David Vitter of Louisiana, as well as Democrat Spitzer, who were both revealed to have hired prostitutes. But Leno’s joke assumed both disgraced politicians were Republicans: "Don’t confuse that with other Republicans like Senator Vitter and Eliot Spitzer. They like to get their sex from a pro."
If Leno was confused about Spitzer's party affiliation, it is hardly surprising, as the MRC’s Brent Baker previously documented the mainstream media’s reluctance to label Spitzer as a Democrat, and Rich Noyes documented the media’s greater willingness to label Republicans involved in sex scandals.
Below is the complete text of Leno’s joke from the Monday, May 25, Tonight Show on NBC:
To be clear, we don't fit into any template here, Democratic or Republican or otherwise. I play it down the middle.
Anyone who's seen Sanchez at work knows how funny that is. Throughout his program posts from the microblogging service Twitter crawl across the screen. Known as tweets, the messages Sanchez selects to air come overwhelmingly from liberals.
SANCHEZ: So, by the way, among those participating these days, Rush Limbaugh. He was watching us again this week, when we broke the news about a breakthrough on the president's stimulus package.
And now, as you listen to Rush, see if you can decide who he's more mad at, me for reporting the news of an apparent legislative victory for President Obama, or the three Republicans who broke ranks with Rush Limbaugh and sided with the president?
My colleague Brent Baker has painstakingly documented how the big three broadcast networks have gone out of their way to avoid labeling scandal-scarred New York Governor Eliot Spitzer as a “Democrat.” An examination of the fifteen ABC, CBS and NBC morning and evening news shows through Wednesday night finds Spitzer was called a Democrat just 20% of the time — twice on CBS, once on ABC, and never on NBC.
So how do the networks treat Republicans involved in sex scandals? Always, always as Republicans, and as problems for their party.
Last July, Louisiana Senator David Vitter’s name surfaced in the phone records of the “DC Madam,” Deborah Jean Palfrey. Over the next week, ABC talked about Vitter twice on World News and twice on Good Morning America, labeling him as a “Republican” or “conservative Republican” all four times.
MRC President and NewsBusters Publisher Brent Bozell appeared on today's "Fox & Friends" to discuss findings by MRC analysts that Gov. Eliot Spitzer's (D-NY) party affiliation (and Hillary Clinton superdelegate status) has been persistently overlooked in broadcast and print media outlets.:
BOZELL: ABC and then NBC "Nightly News" two days ago, not once mentioned that he was a Democrat. "Good Morning America," not once mentioned that he was a Democrat. ABC nightly news, not once mentioned that he was a Democrat. CBS, one mention on the nightly news, no mention on the morning news. AP did a three-paragraph breaking story, never mentioned that he was a Democrat, then they came out with a full story, never mentioned that he was a Democrat. Last night, NBC, never mentioned he was a Democrat. Last night, ABC never mentioned that he was a Democrat. It is unbelievable.
Co-host Steve Doocy noted that this is not new for the news media, recalling the 2001 Gary Condit saga. Condit, you will recall was suspected in the disappearance of former intern Chandra Levy:
NewsBusters posters have already given Old Media deserved grief about its reluctance to pin the Democratic Party label on Eliot Spitzer, who, as of this moment, is still governor of New York (Brent Baker on evening news show coverage; Ken Shepherd on the BBC; Shepherd on the AP).
But, as blogger Ace noted last night (warning: some profanity at Ace's link), ABC has outdone the other outlets one better.
ABC's "Political Sex Scandals Redux" popup slideshow has a series of 13 slides relating to current and past politicians. If Republicans are or were involved, the network, with one rare and minor exception, consistently applies the "R" label almost immediately. With Democrats, with one very old exception, the party label isn't there.
Update (18:18 EDT): BBC has updated their article to note the Democratic party affiliation in the 3rd graf (link). Our tipster DB informs us that the BBC's North America editor Justin Webb replied to his e-mail with a promise to "try to get it changed."
The BBC initially noted Gov. Eliot Spitzer is a Democrat, in an early draft of an online news article. The mention was in the 6th paragraph. But that stuck for all of 37 minutes as NewsBusters reader DB informs us (screengrabs shown below page break):
A prostitution scandal strikes the Democrats? When Sen. David Vitter admitted he’d used the services of the "DC Madam," thanks to probing by ABC News, the major media saw harm for the entire Republican Party nationwide. Will Governor Spitzer become a national problem for the entire Democratic party? Or will the media suddenly keep the scandal as localized as they can make it?
NBC and MSNBC were especially aggressive in describing conservatives and Republicans "in crisis." The standout quote on the Vitter scandal (along with the Mark Foley internet-messages-to-pages scandal) came from MSNBC reporter David Shuster on August 29, 2007, who blurred the ethical embarrassments into Hurricane Katrina:
Mimicking NBC's Matt Lauer on "Today" with Tom DeLay a few weeks ago, the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz chose Monday to address a number of political scandals in America, all of them of course dealing with Republicans.
Yet, there was a brewing campaign finance scandal conspicuously absent from Kurtz's list. Need a hint what it might be?
Maybe Glenn Reynolds' comical quip will help: "Hsoot, it's on the tip of my tongue..."
Yep. Nowhere was Norman Hsu to be found. Instead, here's what concerned Kurtz (emphasis added):
It's rare to see a leading MSM light directly confronted over the liberal media's bias. But it happened in spades this morning as Tom DeLay (R-Texas) called out Matt Lauer on the MSM's double-standard in handling Republican, versus Democrat, scandals.
On the Wednesday night edition of MSNBC's "Hardball" Chris Matthews and David Shuster continued to use the Larry Craig scandal to bury the GOP and while Matthews declared "the downfall of" Bush's party was "driven by every movement of the body politic" it was his colleague Shuster who outdid him when, after running down a litany of GOP troubles ranging from Craig to the resignation of Alberto Gonzales, charged: "It all adds moral insult to the injuries being suffered today by the victims of Hurricane Katrina."
For NBC's "Today" show crew it wasn't enough to label Larry Craig's scandal as a crisis for him personally or even to call it a crisis for the Republican Party, no "Today" went even further as it declared it a "crisis" for conservatives everywhere. NBC's Matt Lauer opened the Tuesday "Today" show asking his viewers: "Can the right wing withstand yet another scandal involving one of its own?"
Lauer's colleague Ann Curry, then piled on, as she wondered if the Craig incident spelled doom for the GOP's chances in ‘08: "How does this specter of hypocrisy affect the party, especially as we're now moving into a very critical time for the Republican Party facing this presidential election year?"
Yesterday I wrote a piece about reporter Mika Brzezinski's handling of a story that reflected a political double standard on her part. While hosting MSNBC's "Morning Joe" for the vacationing Joe Scarborough, Brzezinski aired a video of a female reporter chasing after Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. Before she could catch up with the mayor however, the reporter was intercepted by a very large security guard and sent barreling into the side of what appeared to be a nearby dumpster. At the time Brzezinski brushed off the incident as "not that pressing," in stark contrast to the seemingly endless attention the David Vitter scandal received on "Morning Joe" throughout July. This morning however, Brzezinski seems to have changed her mind and now believes "That story's important."
For a little context, Villaraigosa, a Democrat, has been under scrutiny since he confessed to an affair with Spanish language reporter, Mirthala Salinas. Not surprisingly, Salinas received special access to the mayor during their affair.
Yesterday, after airing the video, Brzezinski gave her opinion as to the newsworthiness of the story. Here is her quote from the August 7 show:
Liberals can rest easier knowing that despite her outspoken views on newsworthiness and ethics, MSNBC’s Mika Brzezinski can still be counted on to go to bat for the Democrats. The reporter and "Morning Joe" regular showed off her famous sense of journalistic integrity while filling in for host Joe Scarborough on Monday morning. In the first half hour, Brzezinski played a video of a journalist trying desperately to get an interview with Antonio Villaraigosa, the Democratic mayor of Los Angeles. Villaraigosa has been surrounded by controversy since revelations that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with Spanish language reporter Mirthala Salinas.
The video clip showed one female reporter and at least two cameramen chasing the embattled mayor hoping for an interview. Before she could reach the mayor however, one of Villaraigosa’s hired thugs intercepted the reporter, sending the much smaller woman barreling into what appears to be a dumpster.
Mika Brzezinski is so outraged that people are discussing Hillary's cleavage . . . that she hopes it helps the Dem prez candidate.
The topic arose at 6:18 A.M. EDT on today's "Morning Joe." The affable Willie Geist, a frequent panelist, is serving this morning as guest host for the absent Joe Scarborough. He broached the subject.
MORNING JOE GUEST HOST WILLIE GEIST: One of the other big stories that everybody is talking about is this Hillary Clinton cleavage thing.
MORNING JOE NEWSREADER MIKA BRZEZINSKI [in an exasperated tone]: Oh my gosh.
GEIST: . . . There's a shot of it right now; that's not so bad, I've seen much worse.
BRZEZINSKI: Are you kidding me? That's a great outfit. But what annoys me is that people wrote about it and talked about it. And if has helped her in any way I guess it doesn't bother me because that was ridiculous.
Filling in on July 17 for Keith Olbermann, MSNBC's Alison Stewart devoted a "Countdown" segment to criticizing the dress Wendy Vitter wore during a July 16 news conference in which her husband, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), admitted to an affair with a prostitute.
With "Fashion Ho-Pas?" emblazoned on-screen (pictured at right), Stewart interviewed Radar Online's Jeff Bercovici, who snarked that Vitter's sartorial choice could mark "a complete reversal of the laws of skankery." [Video (1:37):Real (2.54 MB) and Windows (2.90MB), plus MP3 audio (753 kB)]
Olbermann returned to his program's hosting duties the next day and also hosted the July 19 program before turning over the helm yet again to Stewart for his July 20 show*, despite having had three days to become aware of the "ho-pas" segment, take disciplinary action against Stewart, and make her issue an apology. Olbermann either saw the light or felt the heat over the weekend, apparently, as he issued an apology about one-third of the way through his July 23 program (h/t Ian Schwartz):