Imagine for a moment that a sex scandal involving pages had forced a Democrat Congressman holding a safe seat to resign in disgrace weeks before crucial midterm elections, while also reflecting badly on other members of his Party in tight races across the country. A month after the votes had been tallied, and the Democrats had surrendered control of both chambers of Congress in a stunning defeat, a House ethics panel released a report on the subject containing the following information:
- The leaks to the press concerning this matter had come from the communications director for the House Republican Caucus
- A high-ranking staff member for the head of the National Republican Congressional Committee had been informed of the misdeeds of the Democrat Congressman almost twelve months before they were revealed by the press
Now assume that this head of the NRCC had declared four weeks prior to Election Day that nobody in his office was aware of the Democrat Congressman's sexual indiscretions before they were revealed. Would the contradictory findings of this panel be headline news the day they were reported?
Well, if the situation was reversed, and the misbehaving Congressman was a Republican, the answer appears to be "No," and such information would go largely ignored by the media.
O C'mon, O C'mon, Emanuel
As amazing as it might seem, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct released its report concerning the Mark Foley scandal on Friday. The panel determined that the offensive e-mail messages between Foley and male pages were leaked to the media by the communications director for the House Democratic Caucus. Also, high-ranking Democrat Rahm Emanuel of Illinois might have been aware of these electronic transmissions even though he told ABC News on October 8 that he hadn't heard anything about them until the story broke.
But on page 46 of the new House Ethics Committee report on the scandal is testimony that at least one senior member of Emanuel's staff did know about them. The report reveals that the so-called "overly friendly" e-mails between Foley and a former House page from Louisiana had been given to a top Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee staffer in the fall of 2005--more than a year before Foley resigned. At that time, Emanuel was the DCCC chairman.
Bailey's blog posting extraordinarily continued:
Matt Miller, who was communications director for the House Democratic Caucus in 2005, testified before the ethics committee that he gave the e-mails to the DCCC. Miller was also the source who gave the e-mails to reporters from The Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times, and later, to a reporter for Harper's magazine.
Seem newsworthy to you? Well, there was more:
As a part of a "gut check," Miller testified, he shared the e-mails with the "communications director at the DCCC." While the DCCC staffer is not named in the report, Bill Burton was (and is now) the DCCC communications director and a top aide to Emanuel. (Burton did not respond to phone calls and e-mails from NEWSWEEK. DCCC spokesperson Sarah Feinberg confirmed that Miller provided Burton with copies of the e-mails.) Miller, who got the e-mails through a chain of social and political acquaintances, wanted the press to pick up the story at the time, in 2005. He thought Burton might be able to help. "I gave them to him not with any direct expectation but with the understanding that [Burton] is someone who talks to reporters all day," Miller testified, according to the report. "If there's something I'm missing, maybe - you know, that he could give them to a reporter."
O C'mon, Thou Feed Too Many Lies
So, the communications director for the House Democrat Caucus gave these e-mail messages to the Miami Herald, the St. Petersburg Times, Harper's magazine, and a top aide of Rahm Emanuel's. Yet, this wasn't close to what Emanuel told George Stephanopoulos on the October 8 This Week. In fact, try to count how many times Emanuel claimed that he and his staff had no idea about these e-mail messages until Brian Ross of ABC broke the story. Also, pay attention to Emanuel saying the leak came from a Republican source:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (ABC NEWS) (Off-camera): All week long there have been suggestions by - on talk radio and by Republicans and their allies that this was perhaps a Democratic dirty trick. And I just want to ask you plainly, did you or your staff know anything...
REP RAHM EMANUEL (CHAIR DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSIONAL CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE): No.
STEPHANOPOULOS (Off-camera): About these e-mails or instant messages before they came out?
EMANUEL: George, never saw them. And I'm going to say one thing, let's go through the facts right here.
REP ADAM PUTNAM (CHAIRMAN OF HOUSE REPUBLICAN POLICY COMMITTEE): But were you aware of them? You said you didn't see them.
EMANUEL: Never saw them. Let me just go right through the facts, one Brian Ross, who broke this story on your network said it came from a Republican source. Very unusual to do that. Fact two, the Hill paper said it came from a Republican source. All the Republicans and staff people are coming forward are Republicans. Mark Foley who wrote the e-mails originally at the bottom of this whole problem, Republican. The leadership of the Congress from Tom Reynolds to John Boehner to Speaker Hastert who can't come on this show...
STEPHANOPOULOS (Off-camera): So you were not aware and no involvement?
EMANUEL: No, we never saw them. No involvement and she said not anything, George, and what the fact is this is...
PUTNAM: Was there an awareness?
EMANUEL: No. There's a holy...
PUTNAM: Was there any awareness?
EMANUEL: No. Never saw them. The first time I ever saw these things right here when Brian Ross broke the show and when "The Post" had the story. What you guys want to do is take your dirty laundry and throw it over the fence and try to blame other people for the problems and this is...
For those keeping score, Emanuel denied knowledge of the e-mails six times, and twice declared the source of the leaks was a Republican. As it turned out, the answer to Stephanopoulos's first question concerning whether this was a Democrat dirty trick should actually have been "Yes."
Yet, according to a LexisNexis search, the only major television news outlet that reported the specifics of this on Friday, as well as Miller's name, was Fox News' "Special Report":
BRIAN WILSON: We also now know that Matt Miller, who was the communications director at the House Democratic Caucus, was shopping around the friendly e-mail story to friendly reporters. He also passed along the information to his counterpart at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Why is that important? Well, the chair of the DCCC at the time was Congressman Rahm Emanuel who said on national TV that neither he nor members of his staff knew anything about the e-mails.
From Depths of Hell Thy People Slave
By contrast, though all three broadcast network evening news programs did segments on the House report Friday, not one of them mentioned any possible connection to Emanuel, or Miller's involvement. And, though CNN did ten stories about this issue throughout the day Friday beginning with the 11AM EST "CNN Newsroom," it wasn't until "Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees" at 10PM EST that Emanuel's connection was addressed. Sadly, this was at the end of a report that didn't mention any of the specifics or Miller's name:
DANA BASH: But it's not just the Republicans. The committee found that two Democratic leadership aides knew about the Foley e-mails and tried to peddle them to reporters over a year ago. And, CNN is told, Congressman Rahm Emanuel, who led the charge to elect Democrats, was aware of the e-mails, too.
That was it. And, though CNN continued to report on this issue the next day, no attention was given to Emanuel or Miller. This fact was not lost on the network's own media analyst, Howard Kurtz, who on Sunday's "Reliable Sources," pointed out to his guests how terrible a job the press did concerning this issue:
KURTZ: But coming back to the coverage, the report also says that Democratic congressman Rahm Emanuel knew one year ago about Foley's problems and took no action. Emanuel says he had only cursory knowledge.
That doesn't seem to get as much attention from the media.
BILL PRESS SIRIUS SATELLITE RADIO: You know, I don't know about the Rahm Emanuel thing. I don't know the facts of Rahm Emanuel. But my feeling is, anybody who knew about it should have gone to the Ethics Committee or should have gone to the police and reported this activity.
But I must say, if Rahm Emanuel had done that a year ago, you know what? People would have -- Republican leaders would have accused him of just playing politics and they wouldn't have done anything anyhow. This is a Republican problem.
KURTZ: And Republican leaders said at the time that Democrats were responsible for peddling this story. There didn't seem to be any immediate evidence of that, but the House Ethics report says that the communications director of the House Democratic Caucus got a hold of those e-mails, gave them to the "St. Petersburg Times," "Miami Herald," "Roll Call," and "Harper's" magazine, none of which published them.
So, Rachel Maddow [Air America Radio], it does seem like Democrats were trying to get this out for partisan reasons rather than going to authorities.
Maybe more surprising, although George Stephanopoulos did discuss the House report with This Week's panel members on Sunday, there was no mention of Emanuel, Miller, or the possibilty the Congressman from Illinois had lied back in October. I guess Stephanopoulos doesn't mind being lied to when the person committing it is a fellow Democrat.
And Give Them Victory They So Crave
In the end, political observers likely won't be shocked by any of this. As the Media Research Center's Brent Bozell wrote days after the recent elections:
In 25 years of looking at the national media, I have never seen a more one-sided, distorted, vicious presentation of news -- and non-news -- by the national media. They ought to be collectively ashamed. They have made a mockery out of the term "objective journalism" and a laughingstock of themselves at the idea that they should be considered objective journalists.
Without question, Bozell was 100 percent correct: the media in this country likely never had such a disgraceful hand in getting so many people elected as they did in 2006. Maybe even more reprehensibly, if they had put a tenth of the energy into finding out who leaked this story as they did on the non-event that was the Valerie Plame Wilson affair, maybe the election results would have been different.
Of course, much as George Stephanopoulos isn't concerned when Democrats lie to him on national television, the press are only interested in uncovering the source of leaks when it benefits Democrats. If you thought for a moment this was going to change once the elections ended, think again.
Noel Sheppard is a frequent contributor to American Thinker. He is also contributing editor for the Media Research Center's NewsBusters.org, and a contributing writer to its Business & Media Institute. Noel welcomes feedback.