At AP, GOP Criminal an 'Operative,' Dem Criminal an 'Adviser' Without Party Label

June 21st, 2010 2:28 PM

An Associated Press writer has perpetuated a long-standing allegation of bias with two stories about corruption in New York State she wrote last Monday.

In one story, "NY AG: ‘Everyone does it' not a fraud defense'", Colleen Long wrote about the New York Attorney General's office rejecting arguments for dismissing corruption charges against Hank Morris, a former aid to State Comptroller Alan Hevesi, who avoided an indictment in 2007. Nowhere in the article is it mentioned that Morris is a Democrat. Meanwhile, in the other story Long wrote that day, it's all in the title: "Republican operative in NY accused of stealing $1M" about political consultant John Haggerty being indicted for defrauding New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

While Haggerty's political affiliations were mentioned both in the headline and the lede -- even though he was working for the Independence Party of New York at the time -- neither Morris' nor Hevesi's affiliation with the Democrats is mentioned at all.

"Just because ‘everybody does it' in Albany doesn't mean corruption is legal, New York's attorney general said in court papers Monday, arguing the case against a former top political adviser charged in a corruption scandal at the state's pension fund must go forward," Long wrote to open the article about Morris.

Morris is identified only by the neutral (and non-partisan) term "political adviser." Haggerty, with a similar job for various Republican campaigns, is identified in the first sentence like this:

"A Republican operative was indicted Monday on charges he exploited his political reputation to swindle $1.1 million from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, claiming he would use funds to help guard against election fraud but instead buying a house, prosecutors said."

Morris is an adviser and Haggerty is an operative-a Republican operative, at that. "Operative" is what is known as a "loaded" word, a word with certain connotations attached that are already known to resonate a certain way with the public. Operative has connotations of secrecy, mystery and conspiracy; it compounds the association of Haggerty's Republican affiliation and his fraud in a way that being a "political adviser" without a party doesn't.

Between the choice of loaded words to describe a Republican caught in scandal and leaving off the political affiliation of a Democrat involved in a similar, wider-ranging scandal, the AP presents a double standard that belies their position as one the leading sources for national and international news in the United States.