Jonathan Chait has an interesting read in the upcoming edition of The New Republic that looks at, at least in part, the disparity in media coverage of the scandals involving the now-impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and the FBI-investigated-soon-to-be-former Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman. For those of you not following the Coleman scandal, Chait's article offers a decent summary:
What, you say--Norm Coleman? Yes, Norm Coleman! Let me explain. The soon-to-be-former senator's scandal is pretty simple. Nasser Kazeminy, a wealthy businessman and close Coleman friend, allegedly paid him $75,000 under the table.
And by "allegedly," I mean "almost certainly." Here's how the almost certainly true alleged scheme worked. The payments to Coleman came in the form of what Tony Soprano would call a "no-show job." One of Kazeminy's companies is called Deep Marine Technology. Kazeminy allegedly ordered Deep Marine's CEO, Paul McKim, to make a series of $25,000 payments that would go to Coleman's wife. According to McKim, Kazeminy was utterly blatant. He said the reason for the payments was that Coleman needed the money and McKim should disguise them as a legitimate business transaction.
I wouldn't be surprised if this is the first many have heard of Coleman's predicament – as Chait notes, it has hardly registered in the national media:
Some differences in the scale of relative guilt do present themselves. In Coleman's defense, he's currently just a subject of an FBI investigation, while Blagojevich has been voted out of office. And, of course, Coleman hasn't been caught boasting about his scheme. On the other hand, Coleman is accused by a Houston businessman of having actually accepted illicit funds, while Blagojevich is merely being accused of harboring an intention to sell his Senate seat.
Now consider how the two stories have fared in the national press. Blagojevich has turned into the biggest crime story since O.J. Simpson. Can you guess how many articles about the Coleman scandal have appeared in the national media? One short wire story. When I bring up Coleman's scandals with my colleagues, many of whom follow politics for a living, invariably they have little or no idea what I'm talking about.
The national media have almost completely ignored the Coleman scandal but they've found plenty of time to misreport key aspects of the Minnesota recount and ensuing ballot disputes. Al Franken may be a former comedian but the real joke has been the national media's coverage of this Senate race.
Big shock, we know. But it's almost comical to read this headline "DAVE PICKS GILLIBRAND AS LIBERAL DEMS HOWL," and then read the Fredric Dicker article and realize the right-wing Post provided no facts, quotes, or hard evidence to back up its reporting about how liberal Democrats supposedly feel.
Must be nice to practice journalism at a newspaper that requires very little actual journalism.
Christopher Hitchens made another appearance on MSNBC and again targeted the Clintons, claiming: "No other president has had a senator on hand in the Senate who does favors for businessmen who are later found to have given large donations from upstate New York to the Clinton Foundation. Is it a case of buy one, get one free? I would maintain that it is." But neither Hitchens nor 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue host David Shuster pointed out that according to The New York Times article to which Hitchens was referring, Hillary Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines "said that Mrs. Clinton did not solicit the donation from" the businessman "or discuss it with him or anyone on his behalf, and that she was unaware of its timing and size until last month."
On Fox News' Special Report, reporting on reactions to the disclosure that Treasury Secretary-designate Timothy F. Geithner failed to pay certain taxes while employed at the International Monetary Fund, Major Garrett asserted: "Senate Democrats are closing ranks ... and Senate Republicans are keeping their powder dry." In fact, less than two hours before Garrett's report, Republican Sen. Judd Gregg made statements in support of Geithner on Fox News' Your World with Neil Cavuto.
Politico's Roger Simon: "How come Roland Burris has had such an easy time getting to the U.S. Senate while Caroline Kennedy has had such a hard time?"
Simple Answer: Roland Burris was appointed by a sitting governor to fill a vacant seat. Caroline Kennedy has not been.
Teasing a segment on Hardball echoing the Politico's suggestion that political family dynasties are largely a Democratic phenomenon, Chris Matthews said, "if the Republicans are the party of family values, the Democrats sure seem to be the party of family ties." On-screen text during the segment read: "Democratic Nepotism?" But, as MSNBC failed to do in a similar segment earlier, Matthews did not note that, in the last 10 years, two Republican senators have been appointed to their fathers' Senate seats.
Chris Matthews echoed the discredited rumor that 32 ballots from Minneapolis were mishandled in the Minnesota Senate race. Matthews asked: "What about these absentee ballots that were found in somebody's back seat and they're now counting them as official -- what is that about? That sounds pretty squirrely or sneaky or what -- I don't know what it sounds like." In fact, a lawyer for Republican Sen. Norm Coleman has reportedly said regarding those ballots that "[i]t does not appear that there was any ballot-tampering, and that was our concern."
The top of this article seems fine as the reporter outlines the extraordinarily close recount race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman. But boy, the piece completely falls apart as the Times' Christina Capecchi stuffs the second half of the dispatch with right-wing talk points presented by right-wing talking heads.
*The article quotes Coleman's election attorney who accuses the Franken camp of vote-counting ""shenanigans," but requires the attorney to provide not proof/examples.
*In addressing the fact that the Secretary of State overseeing the recount is a Democrat (last time we checked that was allowed), the Times reports that Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Katherine Kersten traced the official's "ties to liberal Democratic groups."
The Times though, doesn't bother to note that Kersten is a right-winger who smeared Franken right before Election Day as a "slanderer of Christianity." She's hardly a source worth citing in the New York Times.
*Speaking of dubious sources, the Times also quotes Sean Hannity who claims there's some "fishy business" unfolding in Minnesota. This has been the right-wing mantra all week: Dems are trying to "steal" the Minnesota election. The proof? There is none, which means there's absolutely no reason for the newspaper to be legitimize that kinds of GOP conspiracy talk.
In total, the Times article quotes or references six Coleman supporters but just one Franken backer.
The Franken/Coleman recount is going to be a lengthy process. Let's hope the Times can improve its coverage.
The Politico falsely claimed that "[a] Democratic bill that would have blocked a 10.6 percent cut in Medicare payments to doctors fell just one vote short of the 60 it needed for passage Thursday." In fact, the vote in question was a cloture vote, which required a supermajority of 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster of a motion to proceed to consideration of the bill. The bill itself would have required a simple majority to pass.
Articles by the AP and The New York Times uncritically quoted Sen. John McCain's labeling of Sen. Barack Obama as "the most liberal" senator without mentioning that the National Journal rankings to which McCain was referring did not offer a ranking for McCain himself because he "did not vote frequently enough" to receive one. They also did not mention that the ranking was based on subjectively selected votes, or that a separate study that considers all non-unanimous votes offers a notably different ranking for Obama.
Referring to criticism of President Bush by Dick Gephardt over rising gas prices, Rush Limbaugh asserted: "[G]as prices didn't start going through the roof till [Democrats] took over the House in 2006." In fact, average monthly gasoline prices (adjusted for inflation) began to climb several years before Democrats took control of Congress.
MSNBC's Joe Scarborough stated that Sen. Barack Obama has "the most liberal record in the Senate, according to the National Journal," but he did not mention a respected, comprehensive vote study that found Obama was the 10th most liberal senator in 2007.
On Fox News, The Washington Examiner's Bill Sammon said of House Democrats' move to suspend the 60-day requirement for voting on the United States-Colombia Trade Promotion Agreement: "I call it more like the 'nuclear option,' because that's what the Democrats called the Republican threat to change the rules back when they were trying to get judges through." Sammon was referring to a 2005 Republican-proposed Senate rule change that would have effectively eliminated the ability to filibuster judicial nominations. But the term "nuclear option," as it pertains to judicial filibusters, was originally coined by Republican Sen. Trent Lott -- not by Democrats.
Discussing reports about Sen. John McCain's ties to lobbyist Vicki Iseman, Pat Buchanan asserted: "I don't have a problem with John McCain writing a letter there, depending on what he says in the letter," adding, "[B]ut McCain shouldn't be denying that, I don't think, because it seems to me that's in the normal course of business of a congressman." But contrary to his description of McCain's actions as "the normal course" for a congressman, the FCC chairman at the time criticized McCain for his request, calling it "highly unusual."
The Chicago Sun-Times uncritically reported Sen. John McCain's assertion that Sen. Barack Obama is "the most liberal Democrat in the United States Senate." However, the Sun-Times made no mention of the fact that the National Journal, which ranked Obama "the most liberal senator in 2007," said that McCain "did not vote frequently enough in 2007 to draw a composite score."