Following the indictment of Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) for threatening to veto funding for the state’s public integrity unit after a Democratic District Attorney refused to resign for a drunk driving incident, ABC and CBS did their best to play up the charges against the Texas Republican.
CBS reporter Manuel Bojorquez provided the most hyperbolic commentary by proclaiming “even if he is eventually cleared of these charges, he may have to deal with the political embarrassment of a mugshot.”
On Saturday, August 16 all three network evening newscasts did provide numerous soundbites of Governor Perry’s repudiation of the charges against him, however only NBC Nightly News bothered to include any quotes of both Republicans and Democrats who have condemned the indictment. Furthermore, none of the “big three” mentioned that the office involved in prosecuting Perry has a long history of targeting Republican politicians, including former House Majority Leader Tom Delay.
NBC’s Kristen Welker was the only reporter to spotlight how there’s “largely bipartisan support for Perry with former Obama advisor David Axelrod tweeting that the indictment “seems pretty sketchy” and potential 2016 rival Jeb Bush calling the charges politically motivated and ridiculous.”
Instead of mentioning this important detail, ABC’s Dan Harris introduced a report on Perry by hyping “we saw the spectacle of a potential presidential contender in a high stakes fight this is really being watched all over America.” Reporter Jeff Zeleney promoted how “it's a tough legal case to prove, but could still complicate his political ambitions” but never once considered that the lawsuit was designed to hurt his political ambitions from the beginning.
The ABC reporter concluded by doing his best to cast doubt on the Texas Republican’s political future by proclaiming “he's still planning on visiting New Hampshire next week to keep those 2016 hopes alive. But before leaving Texas, he must stop at the courthouse for his arraignment.”
On the CBS Evening News, reporter Manuel Bojorquez did note how the indictment of Perry came from a “heavily Democratic county” but failed to inform his viewers that the district attorney’s office leading the investigation has a history of targeting Texas Republican politicians.
Rather than acknowledge the partisan history of this office, Bojorquez concluded his piece by editorializing how “there is no word on when the governor will be booked. Jim, even if he is eventually cleared of these charges, he may have to deal with the political embarrassment of a mugshot.”
See relevant transcripts below.
ABC World News with David Muir
August 16, 2014
DAN HARRIS: Late today, we saw the spectacle of a potential presidential contender in a high stakes fight that is really being watched all over America. Rick Perry, the powerful and long-serving Republican Governor of Texas, stepping to the mics and defiantly denouncing the fact that he has just been slapped with a criminal indictment. ABC’s Jeff Zeleny is on the story.
JEFF ZELENY: Governor Rick Perry is firing back tonight, saying the felony charges against him are politically motivated.
RICK PERRY: We don't settle political differences with indictments in this country. It is outrageous.
ZELENY: Perry's been on the rebound, eyeing another bid for the white house. But now, he's fighting a two-count indictment, abuse of power and coercing a public servant.
PERRY: This farce of a prosecution will be revealed for what it is.
ZELENY: Prosecutors say the governor went beyond hardball politics and tried forcing a Democratic district attorney to quit or cut funding to her office. But he says Rosemary Lehmberg seen here in this jailhouse video, should have resigned after pleading guilty to drunken driving. The two were also at odds about her role at the state's public integrity unit, which investigates corruption. It's a tough legal case to prove, but could still complicate his political ambitions. Three years after this –
PERRY: Commerce and, let's see -- I can't. The third one, I can't. Sorry. Oops.
ZELENY: He's back at it. We caught up with him in Iowa. How tough is it, do you think, to make a second impression on these Republican voters?
PERRY: I think second chances are what America's always been about.
ZELENY: And now Perry may find out if he’ll get that second chance. He's still planning on visiting New Hampshire next week to keep those 2016 hopes alive. But before leaving Texas, he must stop at the courthouse for his arraignment. Jeff Zeleny, ABC News, Washington.
CBS Evening News
August 16, 2014
JIM AXELROD: This afternoon, Texas Governor Rick Perry defended himself against yesterday’s grand jury indictment charging him with abuse of power. Pushing back hard he cast himself as the defender of the Texas constitution. In Austin, Manuel Bojorquez has more on Perry's fighting words.
RICK PERRY: I exercise this authority to veto funding for an office whose leadership had lost the public’s confidence by acting inappropriately and unethically. I wholeheartedly and unequivocally stand behind my veto.
MANUEL BOJORQUEZ: The case is about power with both Governor Perry and the special prosecutor accusing each other of abusing it. The dispute started in April of last year when Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, a Democrat, was pulled over for drunk driving. Her blood alcohol content was three times the legal limit, and she was uncooperative.
ROSEMARY LEHMBERG: Do you know what you're doing?
BOJORQUEZ: At one point, law enforcement officials put a spit guard around her mouth.
LEHMBERG: Don't film this.
BOJORQUEZ: Lehmberg pleaded guilty. Perry demanded Lehmberg resign and threatened to veto funding for her office's public integrity unit which investigates political wrongdoing, if she did not step down. When she did not, he followed through. Because of the threat, Perry now faces two felony counts-- abuse of official capacity, which carries punishment of 5-99 years. And coercion of a public servant. Michael McCrum is the special prosecutor.
MICHAEL MCCRUM: I took into account the fact that we're talking about the governor of a state and the Governor of the state of Texas, but when it gets down to it, the law is the law.
BOJORQUEZ: Perry is the first Texas governor to be indicted in almost a century.
PERRY: I intend to fight against those who would erode our state's constitution and laws purely for political purposes, and I intend to win.
BOJORQUEZ: He's recently crisscrossed the country, raising expectations he'll run for president again in 2016. The grand jury that indicted him comes from a heavily Democratic county.
PERRY: Thank you.
BOJORQUEZ: The special prosecutor plans to meet with Perry’s attorney next week to discuss his arraignment. There is no word on when the governor will be booked. Jim, even if he is eventually cleared of these charges, he may have to deal with the political embarrassment of a mugshot.
AXELROD: Manuel Bojorquez in Austin. Thank you, Manny.
NBC Nightly News
August 16, 2014
LESTER HOLT: Texas Governor Rick Perry came out swinging today, saying a federal indictment charging him with an abuse of power is a political move, one he calls an abuse of power itself. Perry vowed to fight the charges have involve a veto he made last year. NBC’s Kristen Welker has more.
RICK PERRY: This indictment amounts to nothing more than abuse of power. And I cannot and I will not allow that to happen.
KRISTEN WELKER: Texas Governor Rick Perry defiant in the face of a federal indictment alleging he abused his power contrary to the oath of office he took as a public servant. Today, Perry called the charges purely political.
PERRY: It is outrageous that some would use partisan political theatrics to rip away at the very fabric of our state's constitution.
WELKER: Perry, a potential 2016 presidential contender, is facing two felony counts for allegedly using his veto authority to try to force the resignation of Democratic District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg after she was arrested for drunk driving. Prosecutors say Perry threatened to use his veto power to withhold funds from Lehmberg’s agency which investigates public corruption. Lehmberg didn't step down and Perry followed through with the veto.
PERRY: I wholeheartedly and unequivocally stand behind my veto. And I'll continue to defend this lawful action of my executive authority as governor.
WELKER: Special prosecutor Michael McCrum.
MICHAEL MCCRUM: The grand jury spoke that at least there's probable cause to believe that he committed two crimes, two felony crimes.
WELKER: Perry visited Iowa this week, possibly retooling for another presidential campaign after faltering in 2012.
WELKER: But today largely bipartisan support for Perry with former Obama advisor David Axelrod tweeting that the indictment “seems pretty sketchy” and potential 2016 rival Jeb Bush calling the charges politically motivated and ridiculous.
DAVID NAKAMURA: As long as there’s no conviction he’s going to certainly remain a contender in the race.
WELKER: The embattled governor is showing no signs of giving up. Kristen Welker, NBC News.
— Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Jeffrey Meyer on Twitter.