NBC Nightly News Finally Calls Spitzer 'Democratic Governor' --3/14/2008
2. Study: No (D) for Spitzer, Vitter and Craig Always Tagged as GOP
3. Today Show Double Standard: Sex Scandals Only Hurt Republicans
4. Chris Matthews Hails Barack Obama as 'Almost Like Mark Twain'
5. Gets Your Tickets Now for the MRC's 2008 'DisHonors Awards'
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."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Thursday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
For the record, CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric cited Spitzer's party on Monday and Wednesday nights while ABC's World News didn't until Wednesday evening.
The morning shows have completely blacked out the fact Spitzer is a Democrat. The closest NBC's Today show came this week was in this question from Meredith Vieira to Tim Russert on Thursday's show: "Let's talk very quickly about Governor Spitzer's resignation. He was a super-delegate for Senator Clinton. So she loses his vote. Beyond that, do you see any other fallout for the Democrats?" For more on Thursday's Today show, see item #3 below.
For a comparison of how the broadcast networks apply party labels to Republicans but not Democrats, specifically Republicans David Vitter and Larry Craig versus Democrat Eliot Spitzer, see item #2 below.
On Tuesday's NBC Nightly News, Taibbi ignored Spitzer's political party but cited Republican Congressman Peter King's party as he described "Republicans threatening impeachment if he doesn't resign." Before video of State Rep. James Tedisco with an "(R-NY)" on screen, Taibbi also noted how "some Republicans in Albany would welcome" the move up by Lieutenant Governor David Paterson....
For more, check the March 12 CyberAlert posting, "For Second Night, ABC and NBC Refuse to Utter Spitzer's Party ID," online at: www.mrc.org
For a rundown of Wednesday night coverage, check the March 13 CyberAlert article, "ABC Finally IDs Spitzer as Democrat, NBC Fails to for Third Night," online at: www.mrc.org
Curry's short item on Metzenbaum on the Thursday, March 13 NBC Nightly News:
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 percent 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." Looking at the ABC, CBS, NBC morning and evening shows in the days after the most recent scandals broke, Republican Senators David Vitter (July) and Larry Craig (August) were labeled "Republican" on every show (100 percent). Yet for Democrat Spitzer, four out of five news programs (80 percent) have skipped his party identification.
[This item, by the MRC's Rich Noyes, was posted Thursday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
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.
The CBS Early Show aired two Vitter stories, and both times called him a Republican. For some reason, the CBS Evening News did not report on Vitter that week. NBC's Today mentioned Vitter on two different mornings, and called him a Republican both times. The NBC Nightly News reported on Vitter once, and called him a Republican.
ABC's Jake Tapper began his story on July 10 with Vitter's party ID: "REPUBLICAN Senator David Vitter is a self-proclaimed defender of family values...." On July 16, NBC's Brian Williams also stressed Vitter's conservative credentials: "Now we move to Louisiana, where REPUBLICAN Senator David Vitter made his first public appearance tonight in a week. He went underground after being caught up in what is become known as the DC madam sex scandal. Vitter is one of the Senate's most conservative members."
As for Craig, the bathroom sex sting was a much bigger story, and unfolded on a schedule uncannily similar to Spitzer's. The news broke on a Monday afternoon, and was mentioned on Monday's evening newscasts. Over the next two days, every morning and evening show featured at least one story on Craig -- and every one of these broadcasts labeled him a "Republican."
Here's Katie Couric opening the August 28 Evening News: "The story exploded on front pages all over America today: another member of Congress caught up in a scandal, a sex scandal. REPUBLICAN Senator Larry Craig caught in a police sting at the Minneapolis airport...."
On ABC's Good Morning America that same day, Claire Shipman saw the whole GOP "rocked" by Craig's immorality: "We begin with the latest scandal to rock the REPUBLICAN Party. Idaho Senator Larry Craig is denying any wrongdoing after getting arrested on charges of lewd conduct in a Minneapolis airport men's room earlier this month...."
Over on NBC, Matt Lauer began the Today show: "Good morning. Politician in peril. Idaho Senator Larry Craig, an opponent of gay rights, admits pleading guilty to disorderly conduct after a police officer accused him of soliciting sex in an airport men's room. Can the right wing withstand yet another scandal involving one of its own?...On Monday word leaked out that the conservative REPUBLICAN was arrested and pleaded guilty to a disorderly conduct..."
The list of examples goes on, but the bottom line is that in the early days of their scandals, Vitter and Craig were labeled as Republicans on every broadcast news program -- 100 percent -- that mentioned their wrongdoing. For Democrat Spitzer, four out of five news programs (80 percent) have skipped his label. On NBC's Today and Nightly News through Wednesday night, reporters never once acknowledged that Spitzer was a Democrat. (Nightly News finally applied a party ID Thursday evening. See #1 above.)
The media's message: Republicans enmeshed in personal scandal are a moral stain on their entire party; Democrats in similar circumstances are just individuals, not "Democrats" -- and certainly not representatives of the liberal cause.
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:
Then on the August 30 show, co-host Matt Lauer asked Tom DeLay the following: "In 2006, the Republican party was also hit with distracting scandals involving Congressman Mark Foley's inappropriate e-mails to male congressional pages, and lobbyist Jack Abramoff's corruption case, that brought down several prominent Republican Congressmen. This year, the phone number of Republican senator David Vitter turned up in the records of a Washington, DC escort service, and now, recent polls show voters prefer a Democrat over a Republican by 51 to 27%, and at least one poll found the most popular choice among Republican presidential candidates is 'none of the above. The question now: can any of the damage be reversed?"
[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Fast forwarding to the current Spitzer scandal Today has deemed Spitzer's problems will have no damaging effect on the Democratic Party as a whole. The following exchange is from the March 13th Today show:
VIEIRA: Let's talk very quickly about Governor Spitzer's resignation. He was a super-delegate for Senator Clinton. So she loses his vote. Beyond that, do you see any other fallout for the Democrats?
To read Tim Graham's blog about Today's previous reporting on GOP sex scandals: newsbusters.org
On Thursday night's Hardball, Chris Matthews compared Barack Obama's writing abilities to those of the great American writer Mark Twain. Prompted by Philadelphia radio talk show host Michael Smerconish's praise of Obama's first book, Dreams from My Father, the Hardball host effused: "It's almost like Mark Twain. It's so American, it's so textured."
[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Thursday evening on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following exchange occurred on the March 13 edition of MSNBC's Hardball:
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: I think that this argument that he's an empty suit is gonna get tested and proven false. I just finished and have spent all week long, reading to my radio audience excerpts of Dreams from My Father, Barack Obama's first book. And I'm telling your audience on Hardball, if you want to know what makes this guy tick forget the grandiose, highfalutin speeches this is the real deal.
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-- Brent Baker