For Second Night, ABC and NBC Refuse to Utter Spitzer's Party ID --3/12/2008
2. Today Spends 4 Hours Ignoring the 'D' Next to Spitzer's Name
3. CBS's Early Show Makes No Mention of Spitzer Being a Democrat
4. USA Today Never Labels Spitzer as Dem, But Tags Craig and Vitter
5. CNN's Costello Channels Larry Flynt's List of GOP Hypocrisy
6. Tickets Now Available for MRC's 2008 'DisHonors Awards'
7. 'Top Ten Messages Left on Eliot Spitzer's Answering Machine'
Just as occurred Monday night, viewers of Tuesday's ABC and NBC evening newscasts never heard the word "Democrat" applied to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, nor did they even put a "(D)" on screen by his name as ABC did briefly Monday. CBS didn't announce his party either on Tuesday night, but Katie Couric had done so Monday night. The ABC and NBC newscasts, however, did put "(R)" on screen over soundbites from Republicans and NBC's Mike Taibbi twice referred to the reaction from "Republican" politicians.
Fill-in ABC anchor Elizabeth Vargas avoided any party tag: "New York's Governor, Eliot Spitzer, spent most of the day today huddled behind closed doors debating whether to resign after being linked to a prostitution ring." On NBC, substitute anchor Ann Curry led: "Tonight, the investigation of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace is broadening..."
Viewers could only figure out Spitzer's party by implication as both shows aired a soundbite from Republican Congressman Peter King with an "(R)" on screen. ABC's Brian Ross led into it by referring to how Spitzer will soon "end what even his political enemies called a once-brilliant career." NBC's Taibbi cited 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.
Ross concluded with a reference to Republicans: "With no resolution of the case in sight by the end of the work day today, Republicans in the state capital, Albany, say they have every intention of moving ahead with impeachment proceedings if Spitzer is not out by tomorrow."
Also noteworthy, Spitzer's media backers: Taibbi paired a "gleeful" former target of Attorney General Spitzer, former Home Depot Chairman Ken Langone -- who satisfactorily observed: "We all have our own private hells. I hope his private hell is hotter than anybody else's" -- with a "supporter" of Spitzer, a member of the news media: "Time magazine's Adi Ignatius."
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Tuesday night on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
(In between Monday and Tuesday nights, the Tuesday ABC, CBS and NBC morning shows, in multiple stories/interviews, also failed to annunciate Spitzer's political party. ABC's Good Morning America and CBS's Early Show only identified Spitzer's party by putting a "(D)" on screen by his name for a few seconds while NBC's Today show, in eleven segments, didn't even do that in its complete blackout. See items #2 and #3 below for more on the morning shows.)
The March 11 CyberAlert item, "'Straight Arrow' Governor 'Eliot Ness' Spitzer (?-NY)," recounted:
Incredibly, in lead stories Monday night about New York Governor Eliot Spitzer being linked to a prostitution ring, neither ABC's World News nor the NBC Nightly News verbally identified Spitzer's political party. Must mean he's a liberal Democrat -- and he is. CBS anchor Katie Couric, however, managed to squeeze in a mention of his party. Last August when news of Larry Craig's arrest broke, both ABC and NBC stressed his GOP affiliation.
On ABC, the only hints as to Spitzer's party were a few seconds of video of Spitzer beside Hillary Clinton as they walked down some steps and a (D) on screen by Spitzer's name over part of one soundbite. NBC didn't even do that....
The networks hardly hesitated last August to identify Senator Larry Craig as a Republican and, in October of 2006, to highlight how then-Congressman Mark Foley was a Republican, but back in 2001 they rarely identified then-Congressman Gary Condit, part of the Chandra Levy missing person scandal, as a Democrat -- as documented at the time in a Media Reality Check written by the MRC's Rich Noyes, "Avoiding Gary Condit's Democratic ID; MRC Study: Networks Failed to Label California Congressman as a Democrat in 92% of Levy Stories." See: www.mediaresearch.org
In the Craig case, fill-in ABC anchor Kate Snow opened the Tuesday, August 28 World News: "Good evening. A Republican Senator is fighting to save his political career and personal reputation...."
That same August night, Brian Williams led the NBC Nightly News: "We begin this evening with a drama that is the talk of the nation's capital and the talk of the state of Idaho tonight. It is the story of a Republican United States Senator, arrested for an alleged sexual advance to an undercover police officer in an airport men's room in Minneapolis...."
END of Excerpt
For the previous CyberAlert rundown in full: www.mrc.org
Since writing that, I've been reminded of another on point Media Reality Check, by the MRC's Tim Graham, in 2003, "How Disgraceful Democrats Lose the 'D': TV Networks Often Develop Amnesia When Democratic Politicians Bring Embarrassment to the Party." See: www.mrc.org
The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed captioning against the video to provide highlights of the Tuesday, March 11 coverage on ABC and NBC:
# ABC's World News:
ELIZABETH VARGAS, IN OPENING TEASER: Fall from grace: Pressure mounts on New York's Governor to resign. Why do so many powerful politicians betray their office and their families? We'll take "A Closer Look."
VARGAS: To politics now, and the sex scandal that is making headlines in nearly every paper across the country, and is lighting up the blogs. New York's Governor, Eliot Spitzer, spent most of the day today huddled behind closed doors debating whether to resign after being linked to a prostitution ring. Here's our chief investigative correspondent, Brian Ross, with the latest on that investigation. Brian?
ROSS: With no resolution of the case in sight by the end of the work day today, Republicans in the state capital, Albany, say they have every intention of moving ahead with impeachment proceedings if Spitzer is not out by tomorrow, Elizabeth.
ANN CURRY, IN OPENING TEASER: On the broadcast tonight, under pressure: New York's Governor threatened with impeachment if he doesn't step down in the wake of a prostitution scandal.
CURRY: Good evening. I'm Ann Curry, in for Brian Williams. Tonight, the investigation of New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace is broadening, as is the expectation that he'll be forced to resign. We have new information now on the extent of the accusations against the man once called "Mr. Clean." NBC's Mike Taibbi now joins us with details.
MIKE TAIBBI: Now, he's holed up with his family in this Manhattan apartment, Republicans threatening impeachment if he doesn't resign.
With four hours of air time to fill, NBC's Today show devoted a whopping 11 segments on Tuesday to the Eliot Spitzer scandal but not once did any of the show's anchors, reporters, guests, talking heads or even on-screen graphics mention the fact that Spitzer is a Democrat.
Today co-anchor Meredith Vieira set the tone when she ignored Spitzer's party affiliation as she opened the March 11 Today show: "Good morning, client number nine. New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, a hard-charging moral crusader caught in a federal sting involving a high-price call girl ring." NBC's Matt Lauer, also bypassing the "D" next to Spitzer's name, piped in: "Just when you thought you couldn't be shocked any more we go from Eliot Ness to Eliot Mess. Another high profile politician making a stunning admission."
[This item, by Geoffrey Dickens, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
The following is a breakdown of all the Spitzer-related segments:
# 7:00am half hour:
- Natalie Morales report complete with timeline of Spitzer's alleged involvement with prostitute.
- Matt Lauer interview with "New York Post's" state editor Fred Dicker.
- Meredith Vieira interview with NBC's legal correspondent Dan Abrams about the legal details of the case.
- Janet Shamlian report on Spitzer and other past political sex scandals that makes mention of Bill Clinton, Gary Hart, James McGreevey,and David Vitter with video but no audible mention of Kwame Kilpatrick and Larry Craig. No party affiliation applied to any of the politicians including Spitzer.
- Lauer interview with Dina Matos, the ex-wife of former New Jersey Governor James McGreevey on how she dealt with his sex scandal. No mention that Spitzer was a Democrat or for that matter that McGreevey was also a Dem.
- Another Morales report rehashing Spitzer story details. Still no Democratic Party label applied.
- Vieira interview with psychologist Jeffrey Gardere, anthropologist Helen Fisher and Dr. Laura Schlessinger about Spitzer and why men cheat.
- Ann Curry introduces yet another Morales story on Spitzer.
- Curry introduces replay of earlier Shamlian report.
- Curry and Al Roker interview Gardere, Fisher and Matos on Spitzer and the overall impact of infidelity in any marriage.
- Curry and Hoda Kotbe talk more about Spitzer and why men cheat with Dr. Laura Schlessinger. Still no mention of party affiliation, including Spitzer's.
CBS's Early Show on Tuesday began with nearly nine minutes devoted to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer's sex scandal, but did not feature anyone saying the word "Democrat." The only hint as to his party came in two brief instances of "(D)" on screen next to Spitzer's name. The second of two stories before a discussion segment portrayed Spitzer as a great crusader against corporate corruption as reporter Jeff Glor explained: "Eliot Spitzer was once called 'Crusader of the Year' by Time magazine...Spitzer built his career by taking down white-collar criminals and righting the wrongs of Wall Street."
[This item is adapted from a posting, by the MRC's Kyle Drennen, Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
During his report, Glor mentioned Spitzer's "political opponents" calling for the Governor's resignation making sure not mention those "opponents" were Republicans. At the very end of the segment, co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to political correspondent Jeff Greenfield and hinted at Spitzer's party affiliation as she mentioned that Spitzer was a Hillary Clinton superdelegate: "You're our political guy, so I have to ask you, Eliot Spitzer was a superdelegate for Hillary Clinton. That meant one vote for the nomination towards her. What happens to that head count now?"
The coverage painted Spitzer in a sympathetic light. Co-host Harry Smith began by expressing disbelief at the news of the scandal: "Incredulous was one of the words that came to mind as we watched yesterday on television as the New York Governor dealt with accusations he was involved in a prostitution ring." Rodriguez followed by referring to Spitzer's nickname as a reformer: "Nicknamed 'Mr. Clean' because he made a career of cleaning up corruption on Wall Street. And promised to do the same when he was elected governor. Many thought a presidential run was in his future, but now his career may be over, and we're all left to ask why would a man with such a future and so much at stake risk so much?"
Glor quoted an interview Spitzer did with 60 Minutes II in 2002, as the then New York Attorney General ironically described the arrogance of Wall Street executives he was going after: "I think that there was a culture of 'if we can do it and nobody is raising a fuss or protest, let's just keep doing it.'" At the beginning of that interview 60 Minutes anchor Steve Kroft introduced Spitzer this way: "Spitzer has deputized himself as the sheriff of Wall Street, and is leading the posse for retribution, restitution and reform. In a matter of months, he's gone from complete anonymity to what Fortune magazine calls the most feared man on Wall Street."
When Rodriguez talked to Jeff Greenfield about the scandal, she asked: "Are you surprised Spitzer hasn't resigned?" Greenfield responded by suggesting that Spitzer's approval rating was not high enough to get out of it, unlike Bill Clinton: "Well, it's early -- it's very early. Maybe he wanted time to talk to his family, but there is no support for him in the state. One of the big differences when you think about other politicians in trouble. Bill Clinton, 60% approval rating, solid support from the Democrats in Congress and six months to let the story kind of settle. This happened overnight to a governor in the 30s in approval ratings, alienated many of his own party members up in Albany. So, it may not have happened yet, but I can't see how he survives."
Greenfield did flatly call Spitzer a hypocrite when Rodriguez asked about Spitzer's work prosecuting white collar criminals: "Outright, the blatant level one, 'Def Con Five' hypocrisy. You're quite right, he put people in jail for running a prostitution ring. And -- that and also not just hypocrisy, but the sheer jaw-dropping hubris, arrogance."
In 1,760 words, Tuesday's front page USA Today article on New York Governor Eliot Spitzer never identified him as a Democrat, not even in photo captions, though the online version was updated with his party affiliation, yet described Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter as Republicans in the first mentions of their names in the story. Here's the lead of the hard copy edition delivered to the MRC's offices Tuesday morning:
However, in the online "print edition" posting (not the updated throughout the day USAToday.com site) of the March 11 newspaper, "he" was updated to "the Democrat" so the online version begins:
In both versions of "Revelation could cost Spitzer political future: N.Y. governor apologizes after report links him to pricey prostitution ring" by Andrea Stone, the 28th paragraph clearly identified two Republicans caught up in charges of scandalous behavior:
[This item, by the MRC's Brent Baker, was posted Tuesday afternoon on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Only hints in the hard copy edition, or the logical implication drawn by careful readers, let on that Spitzer is a Democrat, starting with the Larry Sabato quote above referring to how "it's hard for Republicans to argue that Spitzer should go when Vitter is still in."
Two paragraphs later: "Some Democrats may be hoping for a quick resignation to minimize the repercussions of the explosive disclosure, Democratic strategist Peter Fenn says. 'The question is how fast do you deal with this and how fast do you get this off the front pages?' he says."
Four paragraphs after that: "Spitzer is a 'super delegate' supporting Clinton against Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for the Democratic presidential nomination."
And six paragraphs later: "The National Republican Congressional Committee called on several freshman House Democrats from New York to return campaign contributions from Spitzer."
For the online version of the March 11 front page USA Today article: www.usatoday.com
CNN correspondent Carol Costello, in a report on Monday's The Situation Room, tried to put the Eliot Spitzer scandal into a better light by focusing entirely on past Republican scandals, and only mentioned two examples of Democrats caught in scandal -- Bill Clinton and Massachusetts Congressman Barney Frank -- in passing.
Other than Idaho Senator Larry Craig, Costello brought up Republicans who had been accused of misbehavior by pornographer Larry Flynt. She only mentioned Spitzer at the very beginning of her report, and then immediately went to her first example, Louisiana Senator David Vitter. "Maybe Larry Flynt would say of Eliot Spitzer, there will soon be one less known hypocrite in government. That's how he described Louisiana Senator David Vitter. Flynt accused him of having been a client of the alleged D.C. madam, Deborah Palfrey, after the Senator's number was discovered in her phone records."
[This item, by Matthew Balan, was posted Tuesday morning on the MRC's blog, NewsBusters.org: newsbusters.org ]
Costello then turned back the clock ten years, and instead of focusing on Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky affair, she brought up the Republicans that had been caught by Flynt.
COSTELLO: It was back in 1998 that Flynt launched his first hypocrite hunt and he had some success. Angry at what he called the hypocrisy of Republican efforts to impeach Bill Clinton, Flynt made life miserable for Georgia Congressman Bob Barr. The Hustler publisher cited an affidavit from Barr's wife, saying that in contrast to his public opposition to abortion, he [had] driven her to a clinic for an abortion. A federal court dismissed Barr's lawsuit against Flynt, saying there was nothing to suggest Flynt's accusation was false. Another prominent Republican, former Representative Bob Livingston suffered, too. He was among those calling for President Clinton to resign over the Lewinsky affair, saying apologies were not enough....Livingston urged a vote to impeach, and just as he was about to become House Speaker, Larry Flynt accused him of infidelity, and Livingston resigned.
Costello then briefly mentioned the more recent Larry Craig scandal: "But other politicians plagued by scandal also survived. Idaho Senator Larry Craig, wife by his side, denied improper contact in a men's restroom at a Minneapolis airport....And although the Senate Ethics Committee admonished him for conduct that reflected poorly on the Senate, Craig remains on the job, he says, until the end of his term."
It was at the conclusion of her report that Costello brought up Clinton again as an example of a Democrat caught in scandal, as well as Barney Frank, who, as Costello put it, "admitted to a sexual relationship with a male prostitute. He received a reprimand, but he is in office today."
The full transcript of the Costello report, which aired 45 minutes into the 5pm Eastern hour of Monday's The Situation Room:
WOLF BLITZER: Let's get some more now on the breaking news, our top story that we've been following -- a well-known governor linked to a prostitution ring. Can Eliot Spitzer survive or is this a career-ending scandal?
Tickets are now available for MRC's 2008 "DisHonors Awards." The MRC's annual video awards with the "William F. Buckley Award for Media Excellence," this year presented to Tony Snow, will take place in Washington, DC on Thursday evening, April 10. Confirmed participants: Ann Coulter, Larry Kudlow, Mark Levin, Cal Thomas and many more since surprise conservative guests will accept the awards in jest.
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From the March 11 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Messages Left on Eliot Spitzer's Answering Machine." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com
10. Hey, what's new?
9. It's Barack Obama. Remember our conversation about being my running mate? Nevermind.
8. Ralph Nader here, glad to hear I'm not the only politician who has to pay for it
7. I'm calling from the 'New York Post.' Would you rather be known as 'Disgraced Gov Perv' or 'Humiliated Whore Fiend'?
6. This is John McCain, if it makes you feel better, I once got caught having sex with Lincoln's wife
5. It's Dr. Phil, call me if you need any horse**** advice
4. This is Senator Larry Craig. Do you ever go through the Minneapolis airport?
3. It's Wolf Blitzer. Call me if you ever want a hot Spitzer-Blitzer three-way
2. Paris Hilton here. I would have done it for free
1. It's Arnold Schwarzenegger. Thanks, I'm no longer America's creepiest governor
-- Brent Baker