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Networks Omit Blagojevich's Democratic Affiliation After Conviction

ABC, CBS, and NBC all failed to mention former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich's affiliation with the Democratic Party on their Monday evening news broadcasts and the Tuesday morning shows. Blagojevich was convicted by a jury on Monday on 17 out of 20 charges, mainly related to the attempt to sell the Senate seat of President Obama. Only CBS's Early Show noted his party with a "D" on-screen.

NBC devoted the least amount of time to the breaking news, a total of 1 minute and 50 seconds between NBC Nightly News and the Today Show. Brian Williams actually didn't mention the party of the new felon or his predecessor during his report on Monday, but noted that "Blagojevich will become the fourth Illinois governor in recent memory to go to jail. His predecessor, George Ryan, is still in federal prison, also for corruption." The following morning, news anchor Natalie Morales gave three news briefs on Blagojevich, all about 15 seconds long each.

ABC correspondent Chris Bury surpassed the total time NBC devoted to the conviction with his report on Monday's World News, and played two clips from the FBI wiretaps that caught the disgraced politician in the act. Bury even went so far to point out that "on his way to court before his fate was known, the quirky ex-governor was quoting from his beloved Elvis- 'all shook up.'" Almost 13 hours later, Good Morning America news anchor Josh Elliott read a 15 second news brief on Blagojevich:

JOSH ELLIOTT: Meanwhile, former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, says that he's stunned that a Chicago jury found him guilty of corruption. He was convicted of 17 out of 20 counts. Legal experts predict he will serve between 10 and 15 years in prison.

CBS devoted the most time to the news, with a full segment each on both CBS Evening News and The Early Show from correspondent Dean Reynolds. During the first report, Reynolds highlighted how "the most striking charge was that Blagojevich tried to enrich himself by selling or swapping President Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat, brazen as shocking even here in Illinois, where a politician going to prison is not terribly unusual." The correspondent later noted that "the FBI's chief investigator said that with today's conviction, perhaps Illinois's long national embarrassment is finally at an end."

On Tuesday's Early Show, news anchor Jeff Glor introduced Reynolds's report by spotlighting that "in a retrial, a federal jury in Chicago convicted him [Blagojevich] of brazen political corruption." But, just as the five other broadcasts, there was no explicit mention of the former governor's political affiliation. The morning show, however, did briefly put the "D" after his name with an on-screen chyron.

The transcripts of the reports on ABC's World News on Monday; NBC's Nightly News on Monday and Today show on Tuesday; and CBS's Evening News on Monday and The Early Show on Tuesday:

06/27/2011
06:35 pm EDT

DIANE SAWYER: We will move on now to Chicago. After the long, unruly saga, the verdict is in and it is guilty. Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich tried to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat after Obama became president.

ABC's Chris Bury is in Chicago with the story tonight.

CHRIS BURY (voice-over): On his way to court before his fate was known, the quirky ex-governor was quoting from his beloved Elvis- 'all shook up.'

FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH: My hands have shaky, my knees are weak, and I can't seem to stand on my own two feet.

BURY: In his re-trial, Blagojevich did take the stand. For seven days, he tried to talk his way out of those incriminating FBI wiretaps, as he's heard scheming to get something for Barack Obama's Senate seat.

BLAGOJEVICH (from FBI wiretap audio): I mean, I've got this thing and it's (expletive censored) golden, and I'm just not giving it up for (expletive censored) nothing.

BURY: Prosecutors argued he tried to trade the Senate seat, in return for a top job in the new administration.

BLAGOJEVICH: How about Health and Human Services, can I get that? How about U.N. ambassador? Ridiculous?

BURY: Just hot air, his lawyers said, but the jury- 11 women and one man- heard a corrupt governor in action.

JUROR 140, JUROR, BLAGOJEVICH TRIAL: We felt that it was very clear that he was trying to make a trade for the Senate seat.

BURY: They also found him guilty of shaking down the CEOs of a children's hospital and a racetrack.

PATRICK FITZGERALD, U.S. ATTORNEY, NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS: That's not politics as usual. That's a crime. And I think it often happens that people take criminal conduct and try to, you know, mush it into politics.

BURY: For nearly two years, Blagojevich, with that trademark hair, was a media darling.

BLAGOJEVICH (from CBS's "Late Show with David Letterman): I'll be vindicated. I did nothing wrong.

BURY: But today, the once chatty politician had surprisingly little to say.

BLAGOJEVICH (from press conference): I, frankly, am stunned.

BURY: Stunned and facing a stiff sentence- ten years or so under federal guidelines. But Blagojevich wasn't quoting that other Elvis song, 'Jailhouse Rock.' Chris Bury, ABC News, Chicago.


07:08 pm EDT

Brian Williams, NBC Anchor; & File Photo of Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich | NewsBusters.org

BRIAN WILLIAMS: Big news out of Chicago today: former Illinois Governor Rob Blagojevich convicted this afternoon of 17 out of 20 corruption charges against him. Most of the charges related to his attempts to benefit from choosing a replacement for President Obama in the U.S. Senate, in effect, trying to sell a Senate seat. Jurors said FBI wiretaps of his phone conversations were the key here. And as he met with reporters after the verdict today, Blagojevich told them he was trying to learn his lesson about talking too much.

FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH: I, frankly, am stunned. There's not much left to say, other than we want to get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them, and then, try to sort things out.

WILLIAMS: Jurors added they wanted the verdict to send a message to public servants about the line between deal-making and corruption. Blagojevich will become the fourth Illinois governor in recent memory to go to jail. His predecessor, George Ryan, is still in federal prison, also for corruption.


06:36 pm EDT

SCOTT PELLEY: In Chicago today, the jury said guilty 17 times, as the former Illinois governor, Rod Blagojevich, was convicted of attempted extortion, bribery, conspiracy, and fraud.

Dean Reynolds reports on the long decent of the high-flying politician.

REYNOLDS (voice-over): Arrested, impeached, and now, convicted, the normally-outspoken former governor was almost at a loss for words.

FORMER ILLINOIS GOVERNOR ROD BLAGOJEVICH: Patti and I, obviously, are very disappointed in the outcome. I, frankly, am stunned. There's not much left to say other than we want to get home to our little girls and talk to them and explain things to them, and then, try to sort things out.

REYNOLDS: While his first trial ended in a hung jury, today's finding was conclusive: guilty on 17 of 20 corruption counts. The jury foreperson.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE JUROR 1: I think, in this instance, when it is someone representing the people, it crosses the line.

REYNOLDS: Along with various shakedown schemes, the most striking charge was that Blagojevich tried to enrich himself by selling or swapping President Obama's vacated U.S. Senate seat, brazen as shocking even here in Illinois, where a politician going to prison is not terribly unusual. Blagojevich never got anything for filling the seat, and spent two years pleading his innocence on the talk show circuit, and lately, seven days on the witness stand.

The case rested on wiretaps of a profane governor plotting to cash in on his appointment power.

BLAGOJEVICH (from FBI wiretap audio): I mean, I've got this thing and it's (expletive censored) golden.

REYNOLDS: The defense saw that as the ramblings of a political blabbermouth, but prosecutors said it was enough to make Abraham Lincoln roll over in his grave. U.S. attorney Patrick Fitzgerald.

PATRICK FITZGERALD, U.S. ATTORNEY: Corruption in Illinois is not tolerable. Governor Blagojevich did not get that message.

REYNOLDS (on-camera): And Scott, the FBI's chief investigator said that with today's conviction, perhaps Illinois's long national embarrassment is finally at an end.

PELLEY: Thanks, Dean.


06/28/2011
07:12 am EDT

JEFF GLOR: It looks like former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is going to prison. Yesterday, in a retrial, a federal jury in Chicago convicted him of brazen political corruption.

CBS News national correspondent Dean Reynolds has more.

DEAN REYNOLDS (voice-over): The disgraced former governor was badly shaken by the new role he's now assuming: convicted felon.

ROD BLAGOJEVICH, (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF ILLINOIS (from press conference): I, frankly, am stunned. There's not much left to say.

REYNOLDS: That's because the jury of 11 women and 1 man said it all- guilty on 17 out of 20 corruption charges, foremost of which was the accusation that the ousted Illinois governor sought to enrich himself in a scheme to swap or sell the Senate seat once occupied by Barack Obama. FBI wiretaps played at his trial captured a certain relish he seemed to have about maximizing his appointment power.

BLAGOJEVICH (from FBI wiretap audio): I mean, I've got this thing, and it's (expletive censored) golden.

REYNOLDS: Arguments that Blagojevich was simply thinking aloud, or engaging in the kind of horse-trading practiced by many politicians, did not prove persuasive to the jurors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE JUROR 1: In this instance, when it is someone representing the people, it crosses the line.

REYNOLDS: In the end, Blagojevich got nothing for the Senate seat except an indictment, and that led to his impeachment and removal from office, followed by a long tour of the talk shows, where he pleaded his innocence. Blagojevich faces up to 300 years in prison, though legal observers say the judge will surely reduce his time behind bars.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE 1: I expect he's going to get somewhere in the high single digits.

REYNOLDS (on-camera): The former governor said he expects to see us all again, and, indeed, the defense says it expects to appeal the case. Dean Reynolds, CBS News, Chicago.


7:16 am EDT

NATALIE MORALES: Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich says he is stunned that he was found guilty on 17 of 20 charges in his corruption retrial. He was convicted of all 11 charges involving his attempted sale of President Obama's one-time Senate seat.

8:03 am EDT

MORALES: And now for a look at what's trending today. Our quick round-up of what has you talking online. Among Google's top searches today, the conviction of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich on corruption charges. He'll likely get around ten years behind bars.

9:02 am EDT

MORALES: Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich says he is stunned that he was found guilty on 17 of 20 charges in his corruption retrial. He was convicted of all 11 charges involving his attempted sale of President Obama's old U.S. Senate seat.

—Matthew Balan is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.