Newt Gingrich and Fred Barnes both falsely suggested that the media have ignored allegations that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid improperly reported a land deal and have focused exclusively on Republican scandals. In fact, Time, CNN and Fox News have devoted significantly more coverage to the Reid deal than to a controversial land deal that benefited Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert.
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On the October 20 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Fox News political analyst and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) falsely suggested that the media have ignored allegations that Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid (NV) improperly reported a land deal and have focused exclusively on Republican scandals. Gingrich stated: "Let's see if Time or Newsweek puts Harry Reid and his million-dollar deal that's being investigated on the cover. I mean, they're very quick to put a Republican on the cover; let's see if one of [co-host] Alan's [Colmes] friends could make the cover of a newsmagazine." Similarly, on the October 21 edition of Fox News' The Beltway Boys, co-host and Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes claimed of Reid's land deal and a separate allegation that Reid improperly used over $3,000 in campaign funds for holiday gifts: "[I]f a Republican had done this, the press would be in high dudgeon, it'd be on the front page of the paper."
On Hannity & Colmes, Colmes responded to Gingrich by noting that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) was not "on the cover for his land deal." In fact, as Media Matters has documented, while recently reporting the Reid land deal, Time has altogether ignored reports from June that Hastert made almost $2 million on the sale of land in Illinois after reportedly taking an active role in the inclusion in a transportation spending bill of an earmark for a highway project near the property. Media Matters also documented that CNN devoted almost 50 times more coverage to Reid's land deal than it has given to Hastert's transaction, even though Hastert, unlike Reid, is alleged to have taken official government action that led to his profit. Additionally, as the weblog Think Progress noted on October 19, although Hannity & Colmes co-host Sean Hannity stated on the October 17 edition of the show that the media was "ignoring questions about Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) land deal," at that point, Fox News had mentioned the Reid deal three times more often than the Hastert deal.
From the October 20 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:
GINGRICH: Here's the test. Let's see if Time or Newsweek puts Harry Reid and his million-dollar deal that's being investigated on the cover. I mean, they're very quick to put a Republican on the cover. Let's see if one of Alan's friends could make the cover of a newsmagazine.
COLMES: But was Denny -- was Denny Hastert on the cover for his land deal?
HANNITY: You were -- you were on a number of times, Mr. Speaker.
COLMES: I don't recall that being the case.
From the October 21 edition of Fox News' The Beltway Boys:
KONDRACKE: You know how much was involved here, over three years -- $3,300 -- that's not -- it's not big money. The other is that he failed to report a million-dollar, I believe it was, land transfer on his financial disclosure forms. Now, I think the serious part of this was that the -- that his partner in this deal was a kind of a shady character in the, you know, the casino world of Nevada. A lot of shady characters out there. But look, the Republicans can use this if they want, but it's not going to trump the Foley scandal.
BARNES: Mort. Such tolerance for Democratic peccadilloes. And I agree these are peccadilloes, but you know what protects Harry Reid more than anything else? It's that "D" by his name. Because the press gets all worked up about -- I mean, if this -- if a Republican had done this, the press would be in high dudgeon, it'd be on the front page of the paper and the networks --
KONDRACKE: I don't think so.
BARNES: Of course they would.
KONDRACKE: I don't think so.
BARNES: They do it all the time!
KONDRACKE: It's too complicated. Too complicated.
BARNES: You're a perfect example --
KONDRACKE: Too complicated.
BARNES: -- of media tolerance of Democratic wrongdoing.
KONDRACKE: Please. Please!
BARNES: Yes you are. OK, let's -- go ahead.