CNN and NY Times Fail to Label This Convicted NY Democrat

May 6th, 2016 3:16 PM

Forner New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, a Democrat, was sentenced to 12 years in prison Monday after being convicted last year "in a $5 million corruption case alleging he traded favors to enrich himself and then lied about it."

Perhaps cognizant of the fact that media watchers are looking over their shoulders, the primary dispatch and several other news stories at the Associated Press, as well as the primary story on Silver's sentencing at the New York Times, tagged him as a Democrat within the first two or three paragraphs. That's progress, but if Silver was Republican or conservative, his party affiliation would likely have made it into the headline and/or first paragraph. However, CNN, which has fancied itself as a wire service competing with AP for the past six years, failed to mention Silver's party at all in its story on his sentencing (bolds representing missed opportunites to include a party tag are mine):

Ex-N.Y. Assembly speaker sentenced to prison Sheldon Silver convicted of fraud, extortion

Sheldon Silver's long and prominent career in New York state politics came to an end Tuesday when he was sentenced to 12 years in prison for fraud and extortion.

Manhattan Federal Court Judge Valerie E. Caproni, who issued the sentence, also ordered Silver to pay a $1.75 million fine and forfeit $5.3 million, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.

Silver, 72, spent two decades as speaker of the State Assembly until his arrest in January 2015. He was accused of using his power as a politician to gain nearly $4 million through bribes and kickbacks, according to a criminal complaint issued by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Federal authorities said Silver, who represented Lower Manhattan, masked kickbacks from real estate developers and medical referral fees by disguising the money as income from what he claimed was a personal injury law practice, according to the complaint.

"Today's stiff sentence is a just and fitting end to Sheldon Silver's long career of corruption," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Tuesday.

Silver's lawyer said their team will appeal the sentence.

"We are disappointed, but we respect the judge's decision and we will pursue our legal remedies: an appeal," Joel Cohen told CNN in a statement.

A jury found Silver guilty in November of two counts of honest services wire fraud, two counts of honest services mail fraud, two counts of extortion under color of official right and one count of engaging in illegal monetary transactions.

In the headline, subheadline, and eight paragraphs above, there were at least eight opportunities, all missed, to tag Silver as a Democrat.

CNN had no problem tagging former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham as a Republican in the opening sentence of its coverage of his sentencing for taking bribes in 2006. More recently, CNN tagged former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, convicted on corruption charges in 2014, as a Republican in the opening sentence of its January 15 story about his Supreme Court appeal.

To those who contend that "we're just supposed to know" that a corrupt New York State politician is presumptively a Democrat, the fact is that during the past seven years, five of the 17 convicted Empire State politicians listed here have been Republicans.

Separately, the New York Times editorial board, in trying to explain "What Sheldon Silver’s Sentence Says About Albany" on Monday, also made no reference to the Democratic Party. But it did refer to a Republican convicted of corruption, and almost made it appear to those who don't already know the opposite that Silver and another convicted Democrat were fellow Republicans (bolds are mine):

What Sheldon Silver’s Sentence Says About Albany

This is how Albany gets its reputation back: one imprisoned politician at a time.

Sheldon Silver, former Assembly speaker, was sentenced on Tuesday to 12 years in prison and a $1.75 million fine. He is being given plenty of time to ponder the disgrace he has brought upon state government, and the injustice he did to the people he professed to serve.

Seeing Mr. Silver, age 72, sent away is a milestone in the endlessly stalled campaign to reform Albany’s facsimile of representative government. Few criminals have been more powerful for as long as the former assemblyman from the Lower East Side. In the long, crooked parade of New York politicians who have traded pinstripes for jumpsuits, Mr. Silver would be the grand marshal — though he may soon be sharing that distinction with the former Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos, whose sentencing on a raft of corruption charges is May 12.

Mr. Silver’s sentence is not the record for an Albany felon — another assemblyman, William Boyland Jr., got 14 years last year. Nor does it approach the roughly 22 to 27 years suggested by federal sentencing guidelines.

Silver and Boyland, also a Democrat, were not given party tags. Only Republican Skelos got one. They don't even care about being so visibly shameless, do they?

Paraphrasing the editorial's opening: "This is how the New York Times might someday gets its reputation back: fully and accurately covering one imprisoned politician at a time."

Don't hold your breath that we'll ever see this happen.

Cross-posted at