On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, substitute NBC Nightly News anchor Ann Curry and reporter Mike Taibbi failed to identify disgraced outgoing New York Governor Eliot Spitzer as a Democrat, but on Thursday night Curry finally informed NBC viewers of the party affiliation -- a fact network journalists always consider relevant when a Republican gets caught in scandalous behavior. Curry set up a story on incoming Governor David Paterson by uttering the word she's avoided all week:
Now to the fast moving developments in the wake of the revelations that New York's Democratic Governor, Eliot Spitzer, was a client of a prostitution service. NBC's Mike Taibbi now with the man who's to take over for Spitzer on Monday.
But, reverting to her default conduct, in an item about the passing of very liberal ex-Senator Howard Metzenbaum, Curry never mentioned his ideology or party as she hailed his life as “the classic American success story” of a man who “always fought for the little guy, taking on the oil and insurance industries” while he “stuck to his populist principles.”
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.
Contemplating the SwitchThose of us who have been participating in the Eliot Spitzer Media Waiting Game -- halting our respitory activity in anticipation of the Jurassic Press actually ascribing Party affiliation to the recently resigned Big Apple Governor -- can finally breathe easy.
The Agence-France Presse and Yahoo! have teamed up to finally do what's right.
On Thursday's "Today" show when co-host Meredith Vieira asked NBC's Washington bureau chief Tim Russert if there would be any "fallout for the Democrats" from the Spitzer scandal, Russert asserted: "Probably not....that story pretty much leaves the front pages."
However, last year, when Senate Republicans David Vitter and Larry Craig were in the news for sex scandals the "Today" show wasn't so quick to let those stories rest and predicted they would have a lingering impact on the party and even conservatism as a whole. As the MRC's Tim Graham reminded NewsBusters readers earlier this week, the "Today" show, ran headlines trumpeting: "Conservative Crisis," and "Craig's Crisis: The Last Straw for the GOP?" Co-host Ann Curry used the scandals to bury Republicans on the August 29, 2007 edition of "Today":
For the third evening in a row Wednesday, the NBC Nightly News refused to identify Eliot Spitzer as a Democrat, but after ABC's World News failed to cite his party affiliation on Monday and Tuesday night when Elizabeth Vargas anchored, on Wednesday evening substitute anchor George Stephanopoulos finally properly tagged him: “The Democrat resigned today just two days after reports that he patronized a high-priced prostitution service.”
In contrast, fill-in NBC Nightly News anchor Ann Curry on Wednesday teased news about “New York's crusading Governor” and then led her broadcast sans any party identification:
Good evening. I'm Ann Curry, in for Brian Williams tonight. Today New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who painted himself as a champion of ethics and moral conviction, resigned just two days after the bombshell news linking him to a prostitution ring. NBC's Mike Taibbi now joins us with more on this breathtaking fall from power. Mike?
Taibbi, just as on Monday and Tuesday, avoided informing viewers of Spitzer's party.
Remember all those stories during Monicagate about how being a serial philandering president might not necessarily be a bad thing? NBC's Bob Faw captured that zeitgeist, saying in 1998 that actually, Bill Clinton was in very good company.
"It might put Mr. Clinton’s conduct with a certain intern in a different light," he said, referring to allegations by liberal historians that Jefferson had sexual relations with his slave Sally Hemings. "After all, if Bill Clinton’s favorite President could end up on Mount Rushmore and the $2 dollar bill despite being sexually active with a subordinate [...] it does reveal another self-evident truth: that heroes, even Presidents, aren’t saints. They’re flesh and blood."
With that "journalism" in mind, it makes you wonder how liberal reporters would have covered the shenanigans of Eliot Spitzer had the New York Democratic governor decided to fight back instead of resigning. Luckily for the record, a Philadelphia Inquirer reporter named Fay Flam provided us with a perfect example of how it might have been. She begins:
For the second consecutive day NBC's "Today" show refused to identify Eliot Spitzer as a Democrat. In a total of seven Spitzer-related segments on Wednesday’s "Today" show and one interview with Barack Obama, where the scandal was mentioned, not one anchor, reporter, guest, talking head or on-screen graphic mentioned Spitzer's party affiliation. However, following the trend on NBC's Nightly News, the "Today" show graphics department did take time to place an "R" next to Rep. Peter King and New York state Rep. Joe Tedisco.
National correspondent Natalie Morales did note that, "the governor was under lots of pressure from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle" to step down but never bothered to note on which side of the aisle Spitzer stood.
The following opening story from the March 12, "Today" show was typical of the rest of NBC News' Spitzer reports, in its refusal to note his party affiliation.
As Brent Bozell and Matthew Vadum have noted here, Time magazine was especially flowery in its salutes to disgraced New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. In 2005, he was "The Tireless Crusader" in their Time 100 issue honoring the 100 most powerful and influential people, placed lovingly in the "Heroes & Icons" section. These short tribute articles are often not written by staff but by prominent people. Spitzer's was written by John Bogle, founder of the Vanguard mutual funds. But wait, look at this cozy arrangement:
Finally: a news network that made Gov. Eliot Spitzer's party affiliation clear. Chances are you've never heard of it, however.
During live coverage of Spitzer's resignation announcement, Washington, D.C.-area News Channel 8 informed viewers of Spitzer's party affiliation in an on-screen graphic reading "Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D) NEW YORK." (see screen grab at right)
NewsChannel 8 is carried on D.C.-area cable systems and is owned along with ABC affiliate WJLA by the Allbritton Communications Company.
Maybe it takes one to know one, but CNN is nonetheless a little red in the face over the gaffe of turning to a man with a troubled past in "adult entertainment" -- so to speak -- as an analyst for the Elliot Spitzer prostitution story. CNN has apologized for offering up as an analyst one Kendall Coffey, a fellow who had to resign as a U.S. attorney over an incident in 1996 when he attacked a topless dancer during a visit to an adult club.
When it came to getting informed comment Tuesday on New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's involvement in a sex scandal, CNN got a real expert -- with more experience in the field than he let on. Billing him only as "a former U.S. attorney," without any reference to how he achieved his former-ness, the network interviewed Miami's Kendall Coffey, who had to resign the job in 1996 after biting a dancer during the process of running up a $900 bill at a strip club.
Coffey told CNN that Spitzer should find major trouble with this incident, especially when money changed hands. After all, Coffey ought to know.
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:
Jim Cramer is known for wearing his heart on his sleeve. But the host of CNBC's "Mad Money" normally lets his emotions show over matters financial. In August, for example, he went ballistic at Ben Bernanke, pleading with the Fed chairman to lower interest rates in the face of widespread home foreclosures.
This morning, however, Cramer got verklempt not over the discount rate but at the falling fortunes of his friend Eliot Spitzer. Cramer went to Harvard Law with the embattled governor and his wife Silda, and over the years has defended Spitzer against the torrent of criticism directed at the so-called sheriff of Wall Street for his high-handed tactics.
Cramer appeared on this morning's Today to discuss with Meredith Vieira yesterday's dramatic Fed move. But at the end of the interview, Vieira raised the Spitzer situation, and that sent Cramer to the verge of tears. The transcript below doesn't do justice to just how emotional Cramer became, so readers might want to view the video.
Just as occurred Monday night, viewers of Tuesday's ABC and NBC evening newscasts never heard the word “Democrat” applied to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, nor did they even put a “(D)” on screen by his name as ABC did briefly Monday. CBS didn't announce his party either on Tuesday night, but Katie Couric had done so Monday night. The ABC and NBC newscasts, however, did put “(R)” on screen over soundbites from Republicans and NBC's Mike Taibbi twice referred to the reaction from “Republican” politicians.
Fill-in ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas avoided any party tag: “New York's Governor, Eliot Spitzer, spent most of the day today huddled behind closed doors debating whether to resign after being linked to a prostitution ring.” On NBC, substitute anchor Ann Curry led: “Tonight, the investigation of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace is broadening...”
In 1,760 words, Tuesday's front page USA Today article on New York Governor Eliot Spitzer never identified him as a Democrat, not even in photo captions, though the online version was updated with his party affiliation, yet described Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter as Republicans in the first mentions of their names in the story. Here's the lead of the hard copy edition delivered to the MRC's offices Tuesday morning:
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was the brash Wall Street corruption buster who made ethics his trademark. He was on many lists of future presidential contenders. On Monday, he apologized after he was accused of meeting a high-priced prostitute in a Washington, D.C., hotel last month.
However, in the online “print edition” posting (not the updated throughout the day USAToday.com site) of the March 11 newspaper, “he” was updated to “the Democrat” so the online version begins:
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer was the brash Wall Street corruption buster who made ethics his trademark. He was on many lists of future presidential contenders. On Monday, the Democrat apologized after he was accused of meeting a high-priced prostitute in a Washington, D.C., hotel last month.
With four hours of air time to fill NBC's "Today" show devoted a whopping 11 segments to the Eliot Spitzer scandal but not once did any of the show's anchors, reporters, guests, talking heads or even on-screen graphics mention the fact that Spitzer was a Democrat.
"Today" co-anchor Meredith Vieira set the tone when she ignored Spitzer's party affiliation as she opened the March 11, "Today" show: "Good morning, client number nine. New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, a hard-charging moral crusader caught in a federal sting involving a high-price call girl ring." NBC's Matt Lauer, also bypassing the "D" next to Spitzer's name, piped in: "Just when you thought you couldn't be shocked any more we go from Eliot Ness to Eliot Mess. Another high profile politician making a stunning admission."
The following is a breakdown of all the Spitzer-related segments:
Saying that he's "breaking our hearts," Seattle Post-Intelligencer "Big Blog" breaking news editor Candace Heckman is chagrined about the probable demise of Gov. Eliot Spitzer (D-N.Y.). Yet while Heckman praised Spitzer as an intrepid friend of Everyman, the populist defender of the masses against powerful Big Business.
Not once did Heckman note Spitzer's party affiliation in her March 11 post (emphasis mine)
Say it ain't so, Eliot! Governor, you're breaking our hearts.
He was once known as the Sheriff of Wall Street, an investigator unafraid of attacking even the most powerful of corrupt institutions and people. He joined Microsoft in taking on spammers, and started criticizing mortgage-lending practices long before the market's recent problems. I mean, if there was a guy to stand behind, it was he.
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, a hero to consumer crusaders across the nation, is today the laughing stock for standup comics and barroom hecklers from Flatbush Avenue to Glenoaks Boulevard.
Anti-male sexism once again became a topic on the March 11 edition of "The View." Discussing New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s prostitution scandal, Joy Behar, who called men "idiots" who "think with Mr. Happy," shouted "I am sick of men and their sexual proclivities." Sherri Shepherd quickly responded "don’t put it on men." Elisabeth Hasselbeck noted the prostitute was a woman and "there are two people to blame there, two people that tangoed here." Later in the conversation Behar claimed "I don’t hate men. I hate politicians."
Behar also added "it seems as though power and sex go together with men." She also said she "would like to see a scandal where a woman is getting great sex." Whoopi Goldberg then inquired what kind of reaction would ensue if a female politician was caught with a male prostitute. Behar theorized that "they’d burn her at the stake."
The relevant portions of the conversation are below.
At the top of Tuesday’s CBS "Early Show"a 1,612 word story on New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s sex scandal did not feature the word ‘Democrat’ even once, nor was the word used in any further coverage of Spitzer during the show. A 'D' did appear briefly next to Spitzer's name on screen at two points during the show, for a total of 14 seconds. In addition, the story portrayed Spitzer as a great crusader against corporate corruption as reporter Jeff Glor explained: "Eliot Spitzer was once called 'Crusader of the Year' by "Time" Magazine...Spitzer built his career by taking down white-collar criminals and righting the wrongs of Wall Street."
During his report, Glor mentioned Spitzer’s "political opponents" calling for the Governor’s resignation making sure not mention those "opponents" were Republicans. At the very end of the segment, co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to political correspondent Jeff Greenfield and hinted at Spitzer’s party affiliation as she mentioned that Spitzer was a Hillary Clinton superdelegate: "You're our political guy, so I have to ask you, Eliot Spitzer was a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton. That meant one vote for the nomination towards her. What happens to that head count now?"
ABC News has a photo montage of political sex scandals, featuring both Republicans and Democrats. But a few bloggers have noted that the captions for these photos often ignore the Democratic Party affiliation of Democrats while highlighting the GOP affiliation of Republican.
Out of 13 pols featured, there were five Democrats, four of whom (80 percent) were unidentified by party. Of the eight Republicans, only two (25 percent) were unidentified by party. Jay Tea at Wizbang has the breakdown here:
Here's a rundown of the disgraced pols, with party affiliations as ABC notes:
CNN correspondent Carol Costello, in a report on Monday’s "The Situation Room," tried to put the Eliot Spitzer scandal into a better light by focusing entirely on past Republican scandals, and only mentioned two examples of Democrats caught in scandal -- Bill Clinton and Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank -- in passing.
Other than Idaho Senator Larry Craig, Costello brought up Republicans who had been accused of misbehavior by pornographer Larry Flynt. She only mentioned Spitzer at the very beginning of her report, and then immediately went to her first example, Louisiana Senator David Vitter. "Maybe Larry Flynt would say of Eliot Spitzer, there will soon be one less known hypocrite in government. That's how he described Louisiana Senator David Vitter. Flynt accused him of having been a client of the alleged D.C. madam, Deborah Palfrey, after the senator's number was discovered in her phone records."
Costello then turned back the clock ten years, and instead of focusing on Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky affair, she brought up the Republicans that had been caught by Flynt.
Perhaps New York Governor Eliot Spitzer believes he can weather the firestorm over his scandal about his patronizing of a high-class prostitution ring. However, he is battling an element that will keep his scandal alive in the public more than the usual political scandal---humor. Spitzer's breaking scandal is less than a day old and already the media and the blogosphere is filled with many jokes and parody songs about his situation. Even many liberals are laughing at Spitzer since the humor generated by a self-righteous politician involved in a sleazy scandal involving a prostitution ring is just too hard to ignore. David Letterman led off his show with several jokes on this subject:
Do you think it’s too soon to be hitting on Mrs. Eliot Spitzer?
Did you happen to see the press conference? Very dramatic. Eliot Spitzer was there. He had yellow crime scene tape draped around his pants – crazy.
The thinking now is that the governor may step down now to spend less time with his family.
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.
The revelation that New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, the Social Justice League's caped crusader, has been involved in a prostitution ring will no doubt come as a shock to all those progressives who have faithfully –often fanatically– boosted him over the years. For years the boy wonder has prattled on about market abuses, both real and imagined, especially during his media-saturated tenure as New York’s attorney general from 1999 to 2006. For years journalists and pundits have hailed Spitzer as the protector of all things good. In a 2005 Time “Heroes & Icons” profile subtitled, “The Tireless Crusader,” John Bogle said Spitzer served with “energy, savvy and distinction” as state attorney general. In 2002 Time hailed him as “Crusader of the Year,” an event Spitzer notes in the bio of his gubernatorial website.
Incredibly, in lead stories Monday night about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer being linked to a prostitution ring, neither ABC's World News nor the NBC Nightly News verbally identified Spitzer's political party. Must mean he's a liberal Democrat -- and he is. CBS anchor Katie Couric, however, managed to squeeze in a mention of his party. Last August when news of Larry Craig's arrest broke, both ABC and NBC stressed his GOP affiliation.
On ABC, the only hints as to Spitzer's party were a few seconds of video of Spitzer beside Hillary Clinton as they walked down some steps and a (D) on screen by Spitzer's name over part of one soundbite. NBC didn't even do that.
While ABC and NBC failed to cite Spitzer's political affiliation in the four minutes or so each network dedicated to the revelations, both managed to find time to applaud his reputation and effectiveness as the Empire State's Attorney General before becoming Governor. Fill-in ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas hailed how “he gained a reputation around the country for aggressively cracking down on corporate corruption. He was elected Governor with a reputation for fighting crime.” ABC reporter Dan Harris maintained “Governor Spitzer is known as a straight arrow, an ambitious overachiever...” Substitute NBC anchor Ann Curry pointed to how Spitzer's “reputation for righteously prosecuting wrongdoing gave him the nickname Eliot Ness.”
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:
Update (16:50 EDT): Clay Waters of MRC's TimesWatch informs me the 3rd paragraph reference in a NYT article to Spitzer's Democratic Party affiliation has been removed. Only an oblique reference to his party remains in the 15th paragraph, notes Waters.
It's the first major political sex scandal of 2008 (aside from Detroit's Kwame Kilpatrick) and it involves a Democrat. So of course the Associated Press failed to note Gov. Eliot Spitzer's (D-NY) party affiliation. Via the LATimes.com Web site, published at 2:28 p.m. EDT:
The New York Times is reporting that Gov. Eliot Spitzer has told senior advisers that he had been involved in a prostitution ring.
On its Web site, the newspaper cites an anonymous administration official as the source and says Spitzer was meeting with his top aides.
Spitzer officials wouldn't immediately comment on the story to The Associated Press. An announcement was scheduled for 2:15 p.m. at his Manhattan office.
The New York Times has more here, and that paper notes Spitzer's party affiliation in the third graf: