On Sunday's Newsroom, CNN's Don Lemon conducted a softball interview of the Rev. Al Sharpton and helped him forward the theory that the congressional ethics investigations into Representatives Charlie Rangel and Maxine Waters are being conducted because they are black. Lemon also didn't go into much detail as to what the charges against the two were and what were the circumstances of their cases.
The anchor interviewed the liberal minister 12 minutes into the 6 pm Eastern hour. Before introducing Sharpton, Lemon did mention that Congressman Rangel was "accused of violating 13 House Rules" and that the "accusations range from financial wrongdoing to damaging the credibility of Congress," but never mentioned during the segment that the charges mainly involve rental properties the New York representatives owns in his district and in the Dominican Republic. He also noted that Rep. Waters "has chosen to face a House ethics trial related to claims involving federal aid to a bank with ties to both Waters and her husband" but didn't give additional details about that case.
Lemon then set up his topic of discussion with the reverend: "Now, the investigation of such powerful people, like Rangel and Maxine Waters, have a lot of people talking. The reaction in Washington seems to be centered on whether the two House members are guilty or not, but back home, in their respective districts, some of their constituents aren't so sure justice is being done, and some are openly questioning why two high profile African-American House members are coming under such tough scrutiny." He then asked Sharpton, "Do you think that black members are being targeted unfairly by the Ethics Committee?"
An unsigned CNN.com article on Friday noted that the Senate Ethics Committee had reproved Senator Roland Burris “for actions and statements reflecting unfavorably upon the Senate,” but did not directly mention the Illinois senator’s affiliation with the Democratic Party. The article did mention that Burris was “the only African-American U.S. senator.”
The first two paragraphs from the CNN Political Ticker story excerpted the letter that the Senate committee sent to the successor to President Obama: “The Senate Ethics Committee issued a letter Friday admonishing embattled Illinois Sen. Roland Burris ‘for actions and statements reflecting unfavorably upon the Senate’ in connection with his controversial appointment by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich. ‘While the committee did not find that the evidence before it supported any actionable violations of law, senators must meet a much higher standard of conduct,’ the letter stated.”
Blago and Burris, Sitting in a tree, But they'd rather we not know their political party.
There has been yet another revelation about contacts between Democratic President Barack Obama's U.S. Senate successor, Democrat Roland Burris and former Illinois Democratic governor Rod Blagojevich over Blago's pre-Senate appointment, uh, deliberations. A released FBI audio recording reveals that Burris offered to make a campaign contribution to Blago as he lobbied to be selected.
This news has brought on yet another wave of stories that fail to tell us what party Blago and Burris belong to.
The Washington Post is the only publication that identified the party of both men in the course of reporting their story. The Post's Peter Slevin and Perry Bacon Jr. also identified the Democratic Party affiliation of the Senate Ethics Committee's Barbara Boxer:
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.
Appointed Sen. Roland Burris lied under oath to capture his seat in the Senate, but The Washington Post can't quite say that. On Sunday's front page, the paper promoted a story on A-3 with the headline "Burris Revises Story on Senate Seat."
On the home page of washingtonpost.com, a tiny headline said only "Burris Reveals Requests From Blagojevich's Circle."
Inside, the headline was "Burris Discloses Fundraising Requests: Senator Reveals Contacts With Blagojevich's Brother, Other Associates of Ex-Governor".
Even reporter Peter Slevin couldn't muster the will to report directly:
Sen. Roland W. Burris (D-Ill.), appointed to fill President Obama's former seat in the U.S. Senate, has informed Illinois lawmakers that he did not tell them the complete story about his contacts with close associates of former governor Rod Blagojevich (D) before he got the job.
In a sworn affidavit made public Saturday, Burris said that the governor's brother asked him in a series of conversations to raise campaign funds for Blagojevich, who was later charged with trying to profit from his executive actions and removed from office.
If the Senate was currently controlled by Republicans, and a black Congressman, in response to Roland Burris not being seated as president-elect Barack Obama's replacement Tuesday, accused that body of racism, do you think media would have reported it?
Probably every hour on the hour, right?
Well, on Tuesday, Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) said: "I believe sincerely that if Roland Burris had not been an African-American, then he would be appointed. They think that they are above the law, and although they might not be termed racist, their action is racist."
Oddly, despite tremendous media coverage of Burris's refused seating Tuesday, Rush's comments went largely unnoticed:
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."
Why can't everyone just settle down, get out of the way, get rid of the "distractions," and let Barack Obama do his magic? That seems to be a recurring media meme during this presidential transition period.
Here are just a few examples in just the past 30 days:
In a December 12 "analysis" piece at Reuters, Steve Holland opened by telling readers that "A political scandal that led to the arrest of Illinois' governor has become an unwelcome distraction for President-elect Barack Obama as he tries to keep his focus on preparing to run the country."
Amanda Paulson's Christian Science Monitor report on December 23 about Obama's internal investigation of contacts between his team and Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich fretted that "As the saga of Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his alleged “political corruption crime spree” has played out over the past two weeks, it’s been an unwelcome distraction for another politician from Illinois: President-elect Obama."
And yesterday, Brent Baker of NewsBusters caught ABC World News Tonight anchor Dan Harris worrying that Bill Richardson's unexpected withdrawal as Commerce Secretary nominee might be "a distraction in the key early days."
The Denver Post seems to have decided that "the Lord" should not be allowed in its paper. In a January 5 report about Illinois Senator wannabe Roland Burris, the unwelcome Burris is quoted by the AP as saying "the Lord" had "ordained" that he get his Senate seat. At 3AM the Post had the full religious quote featured on its site, yet by 8PM the religious reference was purged from the story. One wonders why reference to the Lord was scrubbed from the report?
The report by David Espo of the Associated Press originally quoted Burris as saying that, "We are hoping and praying that they will not be able to deny what the Lord has ordained." Obviously, Burris is convinced that God wants him to be a Senator. (The full AP report with the religious reference can be seen here.)
Imagine for a moment the Senate was currently controlled by Republicans, and the white male majority leader advised Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich not to pick a black candidate to fill president-elect Barack Obama's vacated seat instead pressuring the governor to choose between two white candidates, do you think this would get some media attention?
Probably every hour on the hour until the white majority leader was forced to apology and conceivably resign, right?
Well, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Saturday who Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told Blagojevich he did and didn't support concerning Obama's replacement, and irrespective of their qualifications, there was a clear racial divide in his preferences:
Looking for a column loaded with racism, hyperbole, praise for a man embroiled in scandal, and an obvious disregard for the integrity of a Senate seat? Then you're in luck if you've read Ruben Navarrette's latest efforts.
Completely dropping the ball on why some people are apprehensive about any appointment that Rod Blagojevich could make for the vacant Senate seat, Ruben litters his article with some stunning phrases - statements which heap praise upon the disgraced Illinois Governor. Such phrases as:
Ain't this post-racial period great? Here we have one of the more famous members of the Black Congressional Caucus accusing Senate Democrats of threatening to act like Orville Faubus, George Wallace and perhaps the most iconic of segregationists, Bull Connor.
Bobby Rush, the former Black Panther who is now a congressman from Chicago, levelled his accusation on the CBS Early Show this morning in reaction to the letter signed by all 50 Senate Democrats declaring that they would not seat Roland Burris, the African-American that Gov. Rod Blagojevich yesterday named to take Barack Obama's Senate seat.