In October 2006, the national media projected Rep. Mark Foley's online sex chats with House pages into a disaster that would swallow the Grand Old Party whole. CBS, for example, proclaimed it the "congressional equivalent of Katrina." In 2008, when federal investigators found Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich trying to put Barack Obama's Senate seat on the auction block, these same "news" gatherers found a storm, to be sure, but a storm they suggested would in short order be "pushed out to sea."
With the governor caught on tape unloading obscenity after obscenity about how he expected to reap a financial bonanza for handing out his gubernatorial perks, this story was so undeniably big, even the Obamaphile press couldn't ignore it. So instead these reporters tried to downplay its impact on the President-elect and the Democrats.
First, as with other Democratic scandals (Spitzer, Jefferson, McGreevey, etc.), anchors and editors again purposely dropped the "D" out of the equation, laboring not to tell viewers or readers that the offenders were Democrats. In a Republican scandal, the offending politician is usually described as a Republican in the very first sentence, and deservedly so. In a Democrat scandal, the party identification of the perpetrator can arrive in paragraph eight. Or not at all.
Then, reporters declared that a Blagojevich resignation or impeachment could arrive any day, and suggested the story could soon be finished. (When Republicans are in the crosshairs, reporters announce "this story isn't going away any time soon.") Reporters insisted the Blagojevich story might end soon with the governor's removal, even before Team Obama fully explained its contacts with the governor's office on the Senate-seat matter. They wanted Blagojevich removed from the Democratic elite before he infected the party's anti-corruption claims like an Ebola virus.
Third, they labored mightily to separate Team Obama from the Blagojevich camp. Take CBS, and reporter Chip Reid, who cited local CBS reporter Mike Flannery as an expert, and never mind if local bloggers call him "Chicago's version of Chris Matthews." Flannery insisted one could only call Obama and Blagojevich the "most distant allies," and Reid insisted Flannery told him "Obama has often gone out of his way to avoid any close association with the ethically challenged governor. But that's not stopping the Republican National Committee from trying to tie the two men together." Reid read a line from RNC chairman Mike Duncan, then insisted, "Despite the occasional photo together, though, linking them could be a tough sell."
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