ABC’s Ron Claiborne on Saturday managed to file a report on vast Democratic corruption in the state of New Jersey and, at the same time, not once use the word Democrat. While reporting on an unfolding scandal that saw the arrest of a number of the state’s mayors and assemblymen, all but one a member of the Democratic Party, the Good Morning America weekend news anchor completely ignored party identification.
Claiborne vaguely explained, "44 people indicted, including three mayors, two state legislators and five rabbis and allegations of money laundering, kickbacks and bribe taking." The journalist used the same tactic as he went on to highlight the history of corruption by New Jersey politicians: "Robert Torricelli left office in 2003, under the shadow of an illegal campaign contribution scandal. And Harrison Williams resigned his seat in 1982 while under indictment for bribery."
Claiborne added, "Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James is currently serving time after being convicted on federal corruption charges." What fact is absent from this description of New Jersey’s woes? All of the above are Democrats. He continued this list by highlighting another unidentified Democrat: "Hoboken Mayor Pete Cammarano took office three weeks ago. In a matter of days, he allegedly took a $25,000 bribe."
A July 12, 2001 study by the Media Research Center found that as the Gary Condit controversy was playing out, only eight percent of network stories identified the then-Congressman’s political party after he was found to have an adulterous affair with Chandra Levy.
On March 13, 2008, the MRC’s Rich Noyes pointed out that as the coverage of Eliot Spitzer and his connection to a prostitution ring broke, only 20 percent of the stories labeled him as a Democrat. In contrast, these same news shows were much more likely to identify Senator David Vitter as a Republican when his sex scandal became public.
A transcript of the July 25 segment, which aired at 7:15am, follows:
JAKE TAPPER: We turn next to the corruption crackdown in New Jersey that saw mayors and rabbis arrested in a stunning scene that looked like something straight out of The Sopranos, perhaps with a dash of Woody Allen. The scope of the scandal, complete with a plot to traffic in human organs was shocking even for a state that's become synonymous with these kinds of scandals. Ron has been following the story in the garden state. Ron.
ABC GRAPHIC: Sate of Corruption: Garden State Scandal
RON CLAIBORNE: That's right, Jake. The latest scandal nabbed three mayors, two state legislatures and the five rabbis, it's just the latest installment in a long history and some would say tradition of political corruption in New Jersey. The scandal is breathtaking in scope. 44 people indicted, including three mayors, two state legislators and five rabbis and allegations of money laundering, kickbacks and bribe taking.
WEYSAN DUN (FBI SPECIAL AGENT): It is about crime, corruption, it is about arrogance, it is about a shocking betrayal of the public trust.
CLAIBORNE: And yet, for many people who live in New Jersey, there is something almost depressingly familiar about it.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: It's embarrassing, but I guess you just kind of get numb to it after a while.
CLAIBORNE: The state has a reputation fairly, unfairly for political corruption. Why is that, do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Because it's been corrupt.
CLAIBORNE: If some people have a sense of deja vu, it's because New Jersey has been here before, in fact, many times over many years. The state's gallery of rogues, both alleged and convicted, include two US senators. Robert Torricelli left office in 2003, under the shadow of an illegal campaign contribution scandal. And Harrison Williams resigned his seat in 1982 while under indictment for bribery. Former Newark Mayor Sharpe James is currently serving time after being convicted on federal corruption charges. And the list of other mayors and legislators implicated in corruption scandals goes on and on.
PROFESSOR BRIGID HARRISON (Political Science): It's been going on for decades, if not centuries. We've never seen the eradication of that culture of corruption that we've seen in other states.
CLAIBORNE: Harrison and others who studied New Jersey's political history, blame a weak state government and strong local governments, over 500 of them, and many of which the deal is, you got to pay to play. Hoboken Mayor Pete Cammarano took office three weeks ago. In a matter of days, he allegedly took a $25,000 bribe.
ED KAHRER (public corruption division, FBI): New Jersey's corruption problem is one of the worst, if not the worst in the nation.
DAVID LETTERMAN: Yeah, anybody here from Nee Jersey? Do we have folks?
CLAIBORNE: Not surprisingly, the garden state has become fodder for the late-night comedians.
LETTERMAN: Big scandal in New Jersey today. Did you folks hear about this? Crazy, statewide scandal.
CLAIBORNE: And the state's image wasn't exactly burnished by the hit mob series The Sopranos, which glamorized organized crime.
[Brief clip from The Sopranos]
CLAIBORNE: Michael Wildes, the mayor of Englewood, New Jersey says the bad rap is not fair.
MICHAEL WILDES (Mayor, Englewood): I think what's going on in New Jersey is the same that goes on throughout the nation.
CLAIBORNE: Still, it's a blow to the image of the garden state. A New York Times columnist writes today, no matter what dreadful embarrassment your state is facing, you can always console yourself by remembering you do not live in New Jersey. Ouch.
KATE SNOW: Ouch.
JAKE TAPPER: It's true. It’s true.