A few days before Eliot Spitzer went down in flames, a highly-connected Barack Obama* [Update: Kilpatrick has not committed to Obama] superdelegate was mired in accusations of corruption, bid-rigging and a dead-stripper sex scandal. Usually the media love to report the downfall of party bigwigs, but not in the case of Detroit's youngest mayor Kwame Kilpatrick. Much of the media downplayed the mayor's scandals and did not report his party, let alone his status as a Democratic power player who can influence the election.
Kwame, who is the son of Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick (D-MI), is not just any mayor. He was a Democratic rising star, who spoke at the 2004 Democratic National Convention and is the superdelegate to the 2008 convention thanks to his position as Vice President of the Conference of Democratic Mayors.
But now “The First Hip Hop Mayor” is in serious trouble, with members of the city council calling for his resignation. Controversy has engulfed his two terms, and the latest bout involves a report that his wife assaulted a now-dead stripper whose shooting is still unsolved. At the same time, the mayor's longtime pal Bobby Ferguson won at least $45 million in city contracts while reportedly receiving inside information from Kilpatrick and his chief of staff.
If this were a Republican delegate pledged to John McCain, his exploits would be front-page news with headlines screaming “GOP,” as they were with Larry Craig, Mark Foley, Mark Vitter and even former Illinois senatorial candidate Jack Ryan, whose opponent, Barack Obama benefited from the media's aggressive reporting.
But with these new scandals, no one mentioned Kilpatrick's status as [ed: removed Obama's name, added "a"] a superdelegate and few reported his Dem connections. Nowhere in any of the articles did the headlines or photo captions scream "Democrat."
By far, the best reporting on Kilpatrick's string of scandals is being done by the Detroit Free Press, but even that paper didn't include his party or elaborate on his politcal reach.
MSNBC.com, CNN.com and CBSNews.com didn't report the story at all. The New York Times didn't note his superdelegate status or identify him in the photo caption, headline or AP article. The Washington Post's comprehensive two-page AP article hinted that he was a Dem by putting a “(D-MI)” after his mother's name. I only noticed one site that noted his reported his party--the LA Times, which also was one of the only ones to mention his political aspirations.
The Chicago Tribune ran the Detroit Free Press's five-page article which, although it was in-depth, didn't include Kilpatrick's party or connections.
The media haven't spun Kilpatrick's story into a Democratic “culture of corruption” or hyped a DNC “in crisis” as they've done with Republicans. Compare Kilpatrick's coverage to how the media connected the arrest of Florida State Rep. Bob Allen, who was also John McCain's state campaign co-chair.
Any Republican affiliation with a scandal, no matter how minor, is magically linked to the GOP. CBS and the AP did it to Dick Cheney yesterday, but the media avoid that with Democrats.
Perhaps this story would have more traction if Eliot Spitzer were not in the news. Although, I'm sure that the media will soon merge Spitzer and Kilpatrick's events and fret over the Democratic “culture of corruption," wondering what the Party can do to get its reputation back?
Let's see if the media report Kilpatrick's scandal with the vigor that they use when the politician in the hot seat is a Republican.
*Kilpatrick is an uncommitted candidate and has not pledged to Obama; headline was changed to reflect that.
Lynn contributes to NewsBusters. Email her at tvisgoodforyou2-at—y a h o o –d o t—c o m