January 24, 2006
The Media's Double Standard in Covering
One of the things
that drives Republicans crazy is the media's enormous double-standard
in how they cover various scandals. While day after day we read
on the front pages about how awful it is that a Republican congressman
played golf with some lobbyist -- as if that is the epitome of
unethical behavior -- cases of actual criminality by Democrats
are buried on the back pages.
on Jan. 12, The New York Times ran yet another article
on page one linking Rep. Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, and convicted
lobbyist Jack Abramoff, along with two columns about Abramoff
on the inside pages. There was absolutely nothing new in any of
That same day, however,
there was real news about a former aide to Rep. William Jefferson,
Democrat of Louisiana, who pled guilty the day before to bribing
the congressman. The aide, Brett Pfeffer, said that his former
boss had demanded a stake in Pfeffer's business in return for
his support. He also alleged that Jefferson had insisted that
two of his relatives be put on Pfeffer's payroll.
Apparently, the FBI
has been investigating Jefferson for some time. It has raided
his home and wired conversations with him in a sting operation.
So how did
the Times handle this hot news? It appeared on page 28.
Moreover, the Times couldn't even be bothered to have
one of its own reporters look into the case, and instead ran Associated
Press wire copy.
Jan. 12, on page five of the second section, the Times
reported that a state assemblyman who had formerly headed the
Brooklyn Democratic Party was sentenced to jail a day earlier
for receiving illegal contributions. The assemblyman, Clarence
Norman Jr., faces other charges, as well.
23, the Times reported that former Atlanta mayor Bill
Campbell is on trial for receiving payoffs of $150,000 from companies
doing business with the city, as well as $100,000 in illegal campaign
contributions and other gratuities. This article appeared on page
Nowhere in the article
was Campbell's political affiliation mentioned. I had to do an
Internet search to discover that he is a Democrat. Yet the article
had plenty of space to discuss at some length what a great mayor
Campbell had been.
I'm not saying that
these stories should necessarily have been front-page news. But
it does seem suspicious when news about Democratic corruption
is systematically buried on the back pages, while the front page
carries yet another rehash of the DeLay-Abramoff connection containing
Ever since Watergate,
a key media template has been that the Republican Party is the
party of corruption. Thus, every wrongdoing of any Republican
tends to get page one treatment, while Democratic corruption is
treated as routine and buried on the back pages, mentioned once
and then forgotten.
Yet any objective
study of comparative party corruption would have to conclude that
Democrats are far more likely to be caught engaging in it than
Republicans. For example, a review of misconduct cases in the
House of Representatives since Watergate shows many more cases
involving Democrats than Republicans.
Skeptics can go to
the Web site of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct,
popularly known as the House ethics committee. Click on "historical
documents," and go to a publication called "Historical
Summary of Conduct Cases in the House of Representatives."
The document was last updated on Nov. 9, 2004, and lists every
ethics case since 1798, when Rep. Roger Griswold of Connecticut
attacked Rep. Matthew Lyon of Vermont with a "stout cane,"
and Lyon responded with a pair of fireplace tongs.
By my count, there
have been 70 different members of the House who have been investigated
for serious offenses over the last 30 years, including many involving
actual criminality and jail time. Of these, only 15 involved Republicans,
with the remaining 55 involving Democrats.
I have no doubt that
any poll of the American people asking which party had more frequently
been the subject of House ethics investigations would show an
overwhelming majority naming the Republicans, when the truth is
that Democrats, historically, have been far more likely to have
The reason is that
the liberal media harp on Republican misdeeds monotonously because
to them the subject never gets boring. By contrast, Democratic
wrongdoing tends to be treated in a perfunctory manner, with no
follow-up. This imbalance of coverage, which is unrelated to the
seriousness of the charges, naturally tends to make people think
Republicans are more corrupt, when a reasonable person reviewing
all the evidence would have to conclude that Democrats are much
more likely to be corrupt.
Of course, another
explanation for the disparate treatment may be that Democratic
corruption is so commonplace that it really isn't "news."
Democrats should consider that possibility before launching a
campaign against Republican corruption.
2006 Creators Syndicate