Scandals, Penn State-Style Ethics and Journalist Hypocrisy
Tune in the evening news and you'd think America is a scandal-plagued nation. Scandals to the right of us, scandals to the left of us. There's the media assault on GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain, the deadly Fast and Furious federal gun-running case, the Solyndra solar loan fiasco or the collapse of MF Global, led by former Democratic N.J. Gov. Jon Corzine.
But the real scandal isn't any one of those. It's how journalists pick and choose which controversies to play up and which to play down. They are so inconsistent, you'd think they studied ethics at Penn State under Joe Paterno.
Heck, maybe he studied under them.
Take the allegations against Cain. We are watching ABC's George Stephanopoulos attack Herman Cain on how he deals with women. This is the same George Stephanopoulos who worked for Bill Clinton and did his best to undermine attacks against him. Remember, Clinton was charged with a variety of women-unfriendly incidents including rape. Yes, rape. Not that the networks made a big deal of it at the time.
Here's Stephanopoulos, on page 267 of his autobiography "All Too Human," "Most important, I wanted to keep reports of Paula [Jones'] press conference off television ... It wasn't a hard sell." His book goes on to say how he tried to discredit her. Yes, this openly Democratic operative is a "newsman" now.
Don't believe it for a second. The different between "journalist" and Democratic Party operative is often nonexistent.
It shows in everything they do. We aren't even two weeks into CainFest 2011 and the broadcast networks have done 117 stories on him. One-hundred and seventeen? That's more than a small war would get. Actually, it's 58 times more than a small war has gotten. Obama ordered troops into Uganda in October, before the Cain allegations came out. CBS and NBC have each mentioned it once since then. ABC hasn't mentioned it at all.
But the networks don't care about American soldiers at risk. They are more concerned that Obama's presidency is at risk.
That's the only explanation for how they've covered, or not covered, the Fast and Furious scandal. You've had to look hard to find consistent coverage of this corrupt government program that cost the life of at least one law enforcement officer. Allegedly the goal was to track U.S. guns to drug cartels and arrest gun runners.
But the program was poorly run and it cost the life of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry. A good leader would take responsibility for that. A moral leader would have called the family to talk to them or meet with them in person. Attorney General Eric Holder didn't do either. All he did do was lie to Congress about it.
According to Holder, the program was furiously "flawed in its concept and flawed in its execution." That skips any blame for when he told Congress he had heard of the program only weeks before. Now we know that's just not true. In any other city than Washington, D.C., what Holder did was a boldfaced lie.
Not that you'd know it from most network news. While CBS's Sharyl Attkisson has shown her top-flight skills as a journalist, and been abused by the Obama administration for it, her competing networks have abandoned their responsibility to their viewers. Both NBC and ABC skipped the House Republican roasting Holder received on Capitol Hill.
It's been much the same in the Solyndra scandal. There only ABC has shown any semblance of journalistic skill covering Obama's failed green program. It's a $500-million scandal involving an Obama fundraiser, a solar panel company that had a dot.com era idea on how to make a profit (none) and it's gotten nowhere near the media coverage a Republican scandal might have gotten. (Just ask Herman Cain.)
A recent Media Research Center analysis found "just 15 stories mentioning the Solyndra scandal since its August 31 bankruptcy filing." For those who find math difficult - like many journalists - that's about one eighth of the stories the Cain controversy has gotten.
But hey, Solyndra wasn't run by a former governor considered as a possible Treasury Secretary and hailed by news outlets as an economic expert. That would be a real scandal. Or not, if he had the infamous "D" after his name.
The former governor is Jon Corzine, who has the reverse Midas touch. He's run Goldman Sachs, New Jersey and, most recently, MF Global, which just collapsed amidst a $2-billion bankruptcy. MF Global fell apart in what CNBC's Andrew Ross Sorkin called a "mini Ponzi scheme."
But not one story on ABC, CBS or NBC has mentioned that Corzine is a Democrat, was considered an Obama adviser and possible pick for a top spot in his administration.
Every time there's a controversial story, media types are making these choices. They love the Occupy Wall Street crowd, so they play up the good from those protests, despite rapes, vandalism, arson, assaults on police and more. But they hate the Tea Parties, so everything they do is somehow nefarious.
It's time the media covered their own scandals. They have plenty.
Dan Gainor is the Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center's Vice President for Business and Culture. His column appears each week on The Fox Forum. He can also be contacted on Facebook and Twitter as dangainor.