All three broadcast network morning shows on Wednesday made a point of labeling Nevada Senator John Ensign as a "Republican" after the Senator came forward last night to admit having an extramarital affair last year. NBC, which refrained for days  from calling New York Governor Eliot Spitzer a "Democrat" after his relationship with a prostitute was exposed, called Ensign a "conservative Republican," while CBS made a point of reciting Ensign's associations with Christian groups.
ABC's Good Morning America provided the only full report, with the on-screen headline declaring "Leading GOP Senator Admits Affair." News anchor Chris Cuomo and correspondent Jonathan Karl noted Ensign's Republican affiliation three times: "A rising star in the Republican Party is coming forward...." "John Ensign is a member of the Republican leadership...." and "The Republican from Nevada admits cheating on his wife..."
Last year, the Media Research Center documented  how the networks always added the "Republican" label to GOP politicians caught in sex scandals, but often skipped the label with Democrats; with their coverage of the Ensign scandal this morning, the networks are maintaining their perfectly slanted approach.
Here's more of how ABC, CBS and NBC covered Ensign in their June 17 morning newscasts, starting with ABC's Good Morning America:
CHRIS CUOMO: There's some intrigue developing in the nation's capital today. A rising star in the Republican Party is coming forward with a shocking admission and an equally stunning explanation. Jon Karl is on Capitol Hill for us. He'll fill in the blanks for us. Good morning, Jon.
JONATHAN KARL: Good morning, Chris. John Ensign is a member of the Republican leadership in the Senate, and he had been considering a run for President in 2012. That was before this.
SENATOR JOHN ENSIGN: It's absolutely the worst thing that I've ever done in my life.
KARL: An embarrassing admission from Senator John Ensign. The Republican from Nevada admits cheating on his wife with a married campaign staffer.
ENSIGN: I know that I have deeply hurt and disappointed my wife, Darlene, my children, and all those who believed in me.
KARL: As to why he is talking about this now, Politico reports that the woman's husband, who also worked for Senator Ensign, met with him and demanded money to stay silent. Ensign reportedly decided to come clean, rather than to give in to blackmail.
Ensign says he hopes to stay in the Senate and continue serving the people of Nevada. As for his wife, Darlene, she was not there when he made his confession last night. But she says, she put out her own statement, saying she has reconciled with her husband, and that the whole affair had, quote, "made their marriage stronger." Chris.
CUOMO: All right, Jon, thanks for that.
# CBS's Early Show, 7am news briefs:
CHRIS WRAGGE: Nevada's Republican Senator John Ensign admits he had an extramarital affair last year. Speaking yesterday, Ensign said the affair with a campaign aide was absolutely the worst thing he's ever done.
SENATOR JOHN ENSIGN: If there was ever anything that I could take back in my life, this would be it. I take full responsibility for my actions.
WRAGGE: Ensign belongs to the Men's Christian Ministry, Promise Keepers, and was a potential GOP presidential candidate. He says he has no intentions of resigning.
# NBC's Today, 7am news briefs:
ANN CURRY: Nevada Senator John Ensign says he has no plans to resign. Last night the conservative Republican admitted to an extramarital affair with a woman on his campaign staff. NBC News has confirmed that he told other senators the reason he decided to go public about the affair is that his ex-mistress was trying to extort money from him.
-Rich Noyes is Research Director at the Media Research Center.