Good Morning America reporters on Tuesday reminded viewers that a Congressman who has been caught in an alleged affair with a staffer is a "conservative Republican." GMA, which is co-hosted by former Bill Clinton operative George Stephanopoulos, also included a network graphic that hyped: "Conservative Asks for Forgiveness." [MP3 audio here.]
ABC routinely downplays the political ID for Democrats involved in scandals, but correspondent Jeff Zeleny informed viewers about Vance McAllister of Louisiana, noting, "Just one month earlier, the conservative Republican was sworn into office, surrounded by his wife and five children."
During his days as a Democratic operative, Stephanopoulos had to defend Clinton on more than one sexual scandal. But when Zeleny asserted that "Republican leaders" are furious at McAllister's "boneheaded" antics, Stephanopoulos didn't minimize the possible problems: "Yeah, I'll say. I see a lot of challengers coming to run against him."
NBC's Today also noted the congressman's scandal with a news brief. Natalie Morales did not mention McAllister's party identification. But she did point out that "the freshman Congressman stirred up controversy earlier this year when he invited Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson to attend the State of the Union speech."
CBS This Morning only covered McAllister with a short clip at the top of the show.
A 2014 Media Research Center study found that ABC (as well as CBS and NBC) routinely point out conservative and Republican leanings for politicians facing scandal. But, Democrat IDs are rarely mentioned:
On August 22, 2013 when it became clear that the Democratic Mayor of San Diego Mayor Bob Filner was about to resign, after being accused of sexually 18 women, NBC and ABC refused to attach the “D” label on their August 22 evening and August 23 morning shows (Bill Whitaker, on the August 23 CBS This Morning, did mention Filner was a Democrat.) In contrast, on August 22 ABC reported on a controversy surrounding the Lieutenant Governor of Texas David Dewhurst that involved him allegedly intervening for his step-niece that was arrested for shoplifting. ABC’s John Muller made sure to note that Dewhurst was a “rising national Republican star.”
On February 15, 2013, all three network morning shows failed to mention the Democratic affiliation of another corrupt ex-San Diego mayor that had gotten into trouble. All three network morning shows reported that Maureen O’Connor (mayor of the city from 1986 to 1992) admitted to gambling away $1 billion on video poker and had stolen $2 million from her late husband’s charity in the process. Not one of the network reports mentioned she belonged to the Democratic Party.
On March 27, 2014, ABC reporters avoided mentioning that Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, accused of massive corruption, is a Democrat.
A transcript of the April 8 segment is below:
ABC GRAPHIC: Congressman in Affair on Tape: Conservative Asks for Forgiveness
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to move to Washington now and the new congressman under fire after getting on camera kissing one of his staffers. The married lawmaker speaking out this morning, asking his wife and kids to forgive him and trying to save his job. ABC's Jeff Zeleny has the story.
JEFF ZELENY: Watch this surveillance video closely. That's married congressman, Vance McAllister turning off the lights in his Louisiana office. Seconds later, he reappears with a woman believed to be on his staff. Then this, a kiss, nearly 30 seconds long. McAllister's hometown newspaper posted the video, Monday. The footage of the romantic encounter was recorded just two days before Christmas. Just one month earlier, the conservative Republican was sworn into office, surrounded by his wife and five children. His campaign theme –
VANCE MCALLISTER: The values that I live by are faith, family and country.
ZELENY: Now, this morning, he's saying he's sorry. In a statement, Mcallister is apologizing saying, "there's no doubt I've fallen short and I'm asking for forgiveness. From God, my wife, my kids, my staff, and my constituents who elected me to serve. McAllister gained attention in January when he brought his constituent and Duck Dynasty TV star, Willie Robertson, as his guest to the State of the Union address. We sat down with the Congressman after he won his special election. He said he had never been to Washington and promised he wouldn't fall into the ways of the city.
REP. VANCE MCALLISTER: You know, if I had a dollar for every time that I've been told, "you're a good guy, don't let them change you, don't become one of them," I probably would have been able to self-fund my campaign a lot easier.
ZELENY: Now, the congressman missed two votes last night. And must now decide whether to run for re-election. In a statement this morning, he said he hopes to earn back the trust of everyone he's disappointed. But that includes Republican leaders who tell me they are furious by what one described as a boneheaded distraction.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah, I'll say. I see a lot of challengers coming to run against him, as well. Okay, Jeff, thanks very much.