CBS's Katie Couric on Wednesday night used an Interior Department sex and drug scandal to snidely frame a story around how “the Bush administration has long been accused of having too close a relationship with the oil industry. Just how close is documented in new reports just out today.” The ABC and NBC evening newscasts also ran full stories on three new reports from the Interior Department's inspector general about the staffers of the Minerals Management Service, mostly in Colorado, but refrained from the overtly political characterization.
Turning to reporter Sharyl Attkisson, Couric opined: “This sounds pretty embarrassing.” Attkisson agreed as she immediately brought President Bush into the story: “It is, Katie. The investigative reports were released a day after President Bush had a private lunch with Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, the man in charge of the agency at the heart of the scandal. That was behind closed doors. Today's embarrassment was very public.”
From the September 10 WashingtonPost.com story, “Interior Dept. Officials Embroiled in Energy Ethics Scandal,” it does not appear many of those involved were political appointees. That story summarized:
Government officials in charge of collecting billions of dollars worth of royalties from oil and gas companies accepted lavish gifts, steered contracts to favored firms and engaged in illicit sex with employees of the energy companies, federal investigators reported today.
In contrast, on ABC's World News, the set up from Charles Gibson stuck to the facts without bringing in pejorative characterizations:
Federal investigators released a stinging report today that finds government employees, who were supposed to oversee the oil industry, were sleeping with energy company workers, doing drugs with them and accepting gifts from them. The report from the Interior Department's inspector general concludes there was a culture of substance abuse and promiscuity involving some Interior Department workers. Here's ABC's Lisa Stark.
Brian Williams, on the NBC Nightly News, also refrained from using the news for a cheap political hit:
Now to a brewing scandal that has just late today been revealed involving the U.S. Department of the Interior, the cabinet agency responsible for this nation's public lands. The agency's inspector general found some employees in a totally dysfunctional environment, allegedly doing things including accepting gifts from oil companies, engaging in rampant substance abuse and sexual misconduct and steering contracts to friends. The story tonight from NBC's Tom Costello.