At the Associated Press yesterday, Michael Kunzelman managed to write a 500-word story about the arraignment of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on bribery charges without once mentioning that Nagin is a Democrat.
That's probably not a "Name That Party" record for "Most Words Used in an AP Story about a Democratic Politician Tainted by Scandal and/or Corruption," but it's especially galling, given the mayor's culpability (along with then-Governor Kathleen Blanco) for failing to ensure that New Orleans was evacuated on a timely basis in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina, and given the national press's non-stop blaming of President George W. Bush for the death, destruction and mayhem which followed. Excerpts from Kunzelman's report follow the jump (bolds are mine):
When in 2008 Senator Ted Stevens was indicted on corruption-related charges, the very first word in ABC News's headline was "Republican." And the R-word was mentioned four more times in the story.
But when ABC's Good Morning America ran a segment this morning on the indictment on charges of corruption of Ray Nagin, former Mayor of New Orleans, it never revealed—either by spoken word or screen graphic—that Nagin is a Democrat. Note that this was not some short news blip: GMA took a full minute-and-a-half to tell the story, but couldn't find a few seconds to mention Nagin's party affiliation. View the video after the jump.
All three broadcast network evening newscasts on Friday night ran short items on the federal corruption indictments against the bumbling former Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, but skipped his party affiliation, a fact Reuters considered newsworthy – if not until their sixth paragraph: “Nagin, 56, and a Democrat...”
ABC anchor Diane Sawyer generously described Nagin as “the face of Hurricane Katrina...then the Mayor of New Orleans fighting for his city.”
Maybe there's some unwritten guideline in the press relating to when a politician who is no longer holding office doesn't have to have his party label applied if he gets into some kind of trouble -- even if that trouble is related to when he was in office.
The suspicion here is that the rule only applies to past Democratic Party officeholders, and that the guideline period is unduly short. A recent example is former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, a Democrat who is under investigation for bribery and kickbacks. Both the Associated Press and Reuters failed to tag Nagin or any other Democrat in their related reports; the AP report called him a "moderate."
CBS's Bill Plante inserted the oft-repeated media spin about the Bush administration's response to Hurricane Katrina into his report on Monday's Early Show. Plante ignored the poor handling of Katrina at the state and local levels, spotlighting instead how "the stranded and homeless wandered the streets of New Orleans" as Bush flew overhead. But three days earlier, CBS brought on former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin as an "expert" on hurricane preparation without mentioning his failures.
Fill-in anchor Jeff Glor stated in his introduction for the correspondent's report that "Irene was not as bad as some thought it might be, but politicians were not taking any chances. They know what happens when government is ill-prepared for disaster." Plante began by spotlighting the Obama administration's response to Hurricane Irene:
On Friday's Early Show, CBS somehow thought it was appropriate to bring on former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to offer "lessons learned from other hurricanes," as Hurricane Irene bore down on the East Coast. Anchor Chris Wragge not only failed to ask Nagin about his failures in leadership in the lead-up to Hurricane Katrina, but also twice labeled his guest an "expert in the field" [audio clips available here].
After making his first reference to the former mayor as an "expert," Wragge first asked the Democrat, "What comes to mind for you when you hear about a hurricane this size bearing down on the East Coast, a region- especially up here in the Northeast, it's not always used to this kind of weather conditions?" In reply, the politician took the time to not only promote his new book, but also tried to rehabilitate his damaged image:
[Video clips from the segment available after the jump]
Update (17:48 EDT): Nagin was also interviewed on today's "Hardball," which was guest-hosted by Chris Jansing.
Teasing his Friday 3 p.m. ET hour show on MSNBC, anchor Martin Bashir proclaimed that he would have a special guest on to discuss incoming Hurricane Irene: "Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin joins us to explain what leaders must do to avoid the mistakes that were made six years ago." [Audio available here]
Bashir was "delighted" to have Nagin on the program and began by asking about the response of political leaders to the storm: "Is it your view, sir, that they are handling preparations for this hurricane in the best way possible?" Bashir followed up by wondering: "...with the benefit of your experience, what are the critical actions that you think need to be taken to ensure that Hurricane Irene, or any other act of mother nature, does not become Katrina, Part II?"
Thanks to Scott Whitlock for providing video after the jump
Promoting his new book, 'Katrina's Secrets,' on Monday's NBC Today, former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin stood by his assertion that racism played a role in the Bush administration's response to the storm: "I'm not telling you that President Bush was a racist or what have you. But I think race and class and politics played in just about every aspect of this disaster."
Co-host Matt Lauer claimed that Nagin was "very honest and open" in the book, at least in his ability to "blame President Bush, FEMA Director Michael Brown and others for slow federal response." After quoting Nagin's suggestion in the book that race was a factor, Lauer referred to the accusation as a "Kanye West moment" and wondered: "What proof do you have that it contributed to the slow response?"
As the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina slamming New Orleans nears, the folks at NBC offered viewers a "Meet the Press" special edition with a sadly predictable conclusion: the disaster was all George W. Bush and the federal government's fault.
The New Orleans mayor at the time was almost entirely ignored in this hour-long examination. The only mention of the state's former governor was actually one of praise.
Rather than offering one new compelling insight into the natural disaster that changed America, the invited guests all fed fill-in host Brian Williams the same old tired lines about racism and classism; despite numerous opportunities to delve into the decades of political corruption in the region that left the levees surrounding New Orleans in a dreadful state of disrepair, the subject was never broached.
Instead, what ensued - given all the time and resources available to really do a groundbreaking exposé on this issue - was something all those involved should be tremendously embarrassed for.
Frankly, that was clear right from the get go (partial video follows with partial transcript and commentary, full video and transcript here and here respectively):
Okay, boys and girls, it's time to play on America's favorite political game show.....NAME THAT PARTY!!!
Today's show features a highly unpopular mayor of New Orleans written up in the New York Times. The first person who thinks he knows the political party affiliation of the mayor, please hit the buzzer. The hidden clues might be hard to find in this article but they could lead the more carefully discerning among you to the correct answer:
NEW ORLEANS — As Mayor C. Ray Nagin approaches his final year in office, he faces scandal, an acrimonious stalemate with the City Council and the worst popularity ratings ever recorded for a mayor here.