In recent weeks, media outlets have misidentified as Democrats several Republicans facing scandal, poor poll numbers
Research ››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN
Since the beginning of October, Fox News and the Associated Press have incorrectly identified former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) as a Democrat while reporting on the scandal surrounding allegations that he engaged in sexually explicit electronic communications with underage former congressional pages. Other media outlets have identified as Democrats former Rep. Daniel Crane (R-IL), who was censured by Congress in 1983 for having a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old female page, and Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI), during coverage of a poll showing Chafee trailing his Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse by 11 points. Whitehouse was also misidentified as a Republican. Most of these errors have since been corrected, though several news shows, including Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor, have not made an explicit on-air or in-print correction.
As reported by the weblog, The Brad Blog, on the October 3, 8 p.m. ET edition of The O'Reilly Factor, onscreen texts in two segments labeled Foley a Democrat:
Subsequently, during that day's 11 p.m. ET edition, no onscreen text appeared to identify Foley.
As The Brad Blog later noted, O'Reilly Factor executive producer David Tabacoff told Editor & Publisher on October 5 that the mislabeling was "an honest mistake." The magazine also reported that Tabacoff said the show, in the magazine's words, "didn't feel it was necessary to run a specific on-air correction" the next day because " 'everyone knows' Foley ... is a Republican."
As first reported by journalist Joshua Micah Marshall, an October 4 Associated Press article reportedly identified Foley as "former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley, D-Florida." Marshall reported that, as of about an hour after his post, the version of the AP article he had cited had been changed to correctly note that Foley is a Republican. The AP, according to a correction notice on the website of the Denver CBS affiliate, issued a formal correction three hours after the story first appeared. Many sites, however, have not published the AP's correction notice with their revised articles that now identify Foley as a Republican.
An October 6 CNN.com article incorrectly identified Crane as a Democrat. According to Marshall, the CNN.com article originally stated that a reference to "similar scandals in the 1980s" in Rep. Joe Barton's (R-TX) letter supporting House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) "referr[ed] to Democratic Reps. Gerry Studds of Massachusetts and Dan Crane of Illinois, both of whom were censured after having sexual relationships with 17-year-old pages."
The current version of the article correctly identifies Crane as a Republican, apparently in response to a CNN.com reader who pointed out the error. The current version of the article contains no indication that a correction occurred.
As noted by Daily Kos blogger Sinfonian, the October 7, 6 p.m. ET edition of Fox News' The Beltway Boys incorrectly identified Whitehouse as a Republican. Discussing a poll on the Rhode Island Senate race, the onscreen display of the results identified Whitehouse as "(R)," while labeling Chafee a Democrat. The same error appeared in all five editions of The Beltway Boys that aired on October 7, 8 and 9:
However, Beltway Boys guest co-host, Washington Examiner chief Washington correspondent Bill Sammon identified Chafee as a Republican at the beginning of the discussion of the Rhode Island Senate race -- right before the incorrectly labeled poll appeared on screen:
SAMMON: Also down, Rhode Island Republican Senator Lincoln Chafee. He's trailing Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse by 11 points in the latest USA Today/Gallup poll.
An October 11 article posted to the conservative website NewsMax.com also incorrectly labeled Foley a Democrat, according to The Brad Blog. The current version of the article correctly identifies Foley as a Republican.
As ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos aired during its "Sunday Funnies" segment, NBC's Conan O'Brien mocked Fox's misidentification of Foley's party affiliation. Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume also aired the O'Brien clip on October 12, but while Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume mentioned Fox News' mislabeling of Foley when he introduced the clip, he did not issue a correction, nor did he mention The Beltway Boys' mislabeling of Whitehouse.