AP headline, article disagree about judge in DeLay case


An October 26 Associated Press article about the judge deciding a motion in former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's (R-TX) criminal case describes the judge as having a reputation as "a nonpolitical moderator" and as having made contributions to both Democratic and Republican candidates. But the article's headline seems to contradict the body of the article, emphasizing the judge's political affiliation.

The version of the article available on Nexis is headlined "Longtime Texas Democrat to decide DeLay's motion that trial judge recuse himself." A version available on Yahoo's news page includes the headline "Democrat to Decide DeLay's Trial Motion." News outlets that use AP articles are not required to use the headline that AP puts on them, but editors often use the AP-supplied headline as a basis to write the headline they do use.

But the first sentence in the article suggests that such a headline offers readers a misleading impression of judge C. W. Duncan: "The decision on who will preside over former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's criminal case will be up to a retired state judge with a reputation as a nonpolitical mediator."

Later, the article notes that Duncan "has made small contributions to both Democrat and Republican candidates" and that "friends and colleagues" say Duncan "is low-key about his politics." The article contains no suggestion that Duncan is a partisan judge; it quotes three people who have worked with Duncan, all of whom described him favorably. One said Duncan is "not driven by politics and personality"; another said he "doesn't have an ax to grind politically." The article contains no suggestion that Duncan is driven by partisanship; in fact, it repeatedly makes the opposite point -- except in the headline, which emphasizes his party affiliation.

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Tom DeLay Scandal
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