For most of the last year, Rep. John Murtha has been placed on a pedestal by the major media, painted in red, white and blue hues as a "hawkish" Democrat who courageously declared we needed to "redeploy" (read: withdraw) from Iraq.
The oohs and aahs began last November. "All of Washington listened," announced CBS's Bob Schieffer, since, "on military matters, no Democrat in Congress is more influential."
Murtha's words "followed President Bush halfway around the world," boasted NBC anchor Brian Williams. CNN's Bill Schneider declared Murtha's withdrawal mantra as the "Political Play of the Week," suggesting it might turn out to be a tipping point just as delicious as Walter Cronkite's call to get out of a "stalemate" in Vietnam.
Months before the midterm elections, this new media-anointed hero announced he would run for the post of House majority leader under a potential Speaker Pelosi. During that time, Democrats were hammering a so-called Republican "culture of corruption," with Pelosi pledging to "drain the swamp" of the majority's ruinous ways in Washington. But the national media didn't exactly wonder how Pelosi would square fighting corruption with installing someone thoroughly tainted with that odor of corruption -- John Murtha.
In January, the Cybercast News Service reported a story that made Murtha's ethical problems clear. In a 1980 video of the FBI's Abscam sting investigation, Murtha told the FBI agents posing as Arabs that he wouldn't take money upfront, but might "change his mind" later "after we've done some business."
In the end, he was listed as an unindicted co-conspirator. He wasn't convicted of a crime, or even charged, but the tape makes clear that Murtha was amenable to making corrupt deals if the right circumstances emerged.
So what did the media do? They largely ignored these charges as they touted Murtha's plausibility as a voice against the war. On the networks, Murtha was interviewed as a great sage, and Abscam went unmentioned. In June on NBC's "Meet the Press," Tim Russert discussed Murtha's run for the House Democratic leadership, but when it came to ethics, Russert only mentioned that "some Democrats have pointed out that you were just one of four Democrats to vote against lobbying reform." Nada on Abscam.