March 31, 2009
Spot the party labelBy William Tate
In basketball, 'D' refers to defense; in political reporting, 'D' signifies Democrats. When it comes to reporting political scandals, though, 'D' seems to be missing from the increasingly partisan publication that used to be the nation's newspaper of record.
In an egregious example of the dinosaur media's blatant bias in favor of Democrats, the New York Times on Monday ran a report on a probe into a potentialy devastating lobbying scandal -- while downplaying Democrats' possible involvement.
According to the Times story, the investigation centers on powerful lobbyist, Paul Magliocchetti, and his firm, The PMA Group.
Magliochetti is a former aide to influential Congressman John Murtha.
The article skims over accusations that Magliochetti and PMA may have used straw donors to skirt campaign finance laws -- a practice that, if true, could have potentially influenced the outcome of last year's election -- and instead focuses on inside-the-Beltway concerns that the FBI may be investigating lavish dinners and other gifts that congressmen and their aides might have accepted from Magliochetti.
What the story buries -- almost, but not quite completely -- is that this scandal centers on Democrats. The first reference to the political party is deep in the seventh paragraph, and even then is only made in reference to an attorney used as a source for quotes in the story, "a veteran Washington criminal defense lawyer known for representing Democrats."
The article waits until the next paragraph, the eighth, to identify Murtha's party affiliation, even though he is first mentioned in the far-more-prominent third graph. And, when the report finally does so, it is in the context of denying wrongdoing:
(It should be noted that a spokesman for Magliochetti and PMA also denied any wrongdoing.)
These are the only two times in the 1,500+ word Times article in which the word, Democrat, appears; Magliochetti's party affiliation is not referenced, nor are party affiliations for any other individuals, even though numerous other politicians are named in the story.
Setting aside the deplorable nature of a rowdy party in Washington while first responders at Ground Zero and -- just a few miles away -- the Pentagon were digging through rubble, hoping desperately to save even a single life, it is remarkable that the Times article didn't bother to identify the party affiliation of a single one of the individuals named above, even though two of them are now powerful members of House leadership. Larson is Democratic Caucus Chair , and Capuano is House Organization Study and Review Chairman.
And, yes, all the congressmen mentioned are Democrats -- as is Maine Governor Baldacci.
Even the Times article draws a comparison between the current scandal and the imbroglio that brought down former powerhouse lobbysit, Jack Abramoff. So let's contrast the Times' coverage of the two.
A Times Magazine profile of Abramoff, published on May 1, 2005, called Abramoff a "a kingpin of Republican Washington" in the first sentence of the second paragraph. (The first graph is just a one-sentence teaser to set up the second.) The next sentence tells us that "he (Abramoff) was close friends with the powerful Republican congressman from Texas, Tom DeLay," and, before we're finished with the paragraph, we also learn of "the countless fund-raisers he (Abramoff) gave for Republican congressmen and senators."
Thus, before the main opening paragraph is concluded, the Times had already tied Abramoff to Republicans three times, more than it used the word, Democrat, in the entire article on the current PMA scandal.
In all, the word Republican is used 15 times in the -- admittedly longer -- 2005 Times Magazine piece on Abramoff.
This is no aberration. A January 4, 2006 Times article presenting an overview of the Abramoff case named Abramoff as "a prominent Republican lobbyist", again in the prominent second paragraph, and referred to "former House Republican majority leader, Tom Delay, and other senior Congressional Republicans."
In all, that 2006 article used the word, Republican, five times in connection with the Abramoff scandal.
Other Times articles referred to Abramoff as:
- "the corrupt Republican lobbyist,"
- or just "the Republican lobbyist."
When Democrats are involved in scandal, they are often identified as "Representative William J. Jefferson," or "Representative William J. Jefferson of Louisiana,"with party identification buried deep in the reports.
Yet, when it comes to a GOP politician, the Times often leads with their party affiliation:
"Senator Larry Craig, Republican of Idaho," "Larry E. Craig, an Idaho Republican," "former Senator Larry E. Craig, Republican of Idaho."
Or "Representative Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican entangled in the corruption," "Bob Ney, Republican of Ohio," "former Representative Randy Cunningham, the San Diego Republican," "Randy Cunningham, a former Republican House member."
It's a pattern that's repeated almost endlessly; Times -- and the MSM in general -- coverage of scandals that involve Republican politicians unfailingly highlights their party affiliation, while coverage of scandals involving Democrat officials buries, or fails to mention at all, their political party.
It seems that, when it comes to reporting political scandals, the Times' printing press is missing a letter, the capital D.
As in John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania).
Or the New York Times (D-New York.)
William Tate is an award-winning journalist and author