Bobby Who? National Media Skips La. Governor Campaign -- Again

The national media completely obsessed over Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, conducting an amazing propaganda campaign which suggested a la Kanye West that George Bush hated black people, demonstrated it by the government's "neglect." They paid little attention to the incompetence of state and local officials, like Gov. Kathleen Blanco. She was so tarred by her response that she didn't even run for re-election.

Yesterday, Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal, who lost to Blanco by four points in 2003, easily won the governor's race. Bobby who? That's right, the national media that obsessed over this area (and we mean you, Brian Williams, and you, Anderson Cooper) hasn't exactly been all over this post-Katrina story. Don't believe it's the victory margin. Dare we suggest that Jindal's status as an Indian-American person "of color" is an inconvenient topic for the liberal media?

Four years ago, Brent Bozell compared the studied avoidance of Jindal publicity to the national media's usual, transparent freedom of association between the national GOP and David Duke at the beginning of the Nineties:

Of the major networks, ABC’s Mike Von Fremd was the first reporter to cover that [2003 Jindal vs. Blanco] campaign – the morning before the voting started.

This inaction is a little shocking, concerning how sensitive the media purport to be about "diversity," at least of the gender or skin-color variety. Von Fremd noted that in either outcome in Louisiana, the governor would be a first, either the first female or the first non-white governor. To see Jindal as an attractive story based only on his "non-whiteness" would be offensive, even as it should make him newsworthy by the usual easy-bake affirmative-action formula. Jindal is an Indian-American raised in Baton Rouge by immigrant parents. How’s that for a first?

But there’s more. At 24, he wrote Louisiana Gov. Mike Foster brimming with ideas for the state’s health care system. Foster was so impressed he put him in charge of the Department of Health and Hospitals, and Jindal brought the agency out of bankruptcy, and turned a $400 million deficit into a surplus by figuring out how to cut expenses. In 2001, he came to Washington to be an assistant secretary in President Bush’s Department of Health and Human Services. In short, Jindal is a whiz kid, a potential Republican Party star.

But our liberal media isn’t exactly interested in finding any new Republican stars – unless they’re located somewhere in the Jim Jeffords part of the ideological spectrum. Their lack of interest in Jindal is an outrage...especially when you consider how they beat the national Republican Party black and blue with sticks and stones in the Louisiana governor’s race 12 years ago, when white-supremacist "Republican" kook David Duke oozed into a runoff election.

Reporters not only tripped over each other in leaping to cover that off-year race, but they demonstrated great aggression in stapling Duke’s racist politics to Bush the Father’s 1988 campaign, which grew infamous for somehow making a victim out of Willie Horton, who mercilessly stabbed a service station attendant to death, but got weekend passes from Gov. Michael Dukakis....

Twelve years later, the national Republican Party could again be stapled to the Louisiana nominee – a young, brainy, Indian-American, Catholic-convert, health-policy wonk – because this time, unlike Duke, he had the GOP behind him. But that apparently would make the GOP look too diverse, and make conservatives look like they’re not slack-jawed racists. That might displease the media’s celebrated black leader of the moment, Al Sharpton.

The most amazing part of the Jindal story is watching how liberal-media types twisted themselves into pretzels in case Jindal actually had won. In the New York Times a few weeks ago, editorialist Adam Cohen claimed that since African-American candidates have done miserably statewide, "If Mr. Jindal wins, it may mean not that race no longer matters in Louisiana, but simply that……Asian-Americans now fall on the white side of the racial divide." [Amazing. Voting for the Indian-American puts you on "the white side." Republicans, by default, are the party of  "the white side."]

Cohen concluded that Jindal would be a "hollow symbol of inclusion" unless he could win over a majority of African-American voters: "If the Republican Party really wants to be inclusive, in Louisiana and nationally, it needs to start finding nonwhite candidates that nonwhites want to vote for." As a modern political fact, Jindal would have to run as a liberal Democrat.

Despite getting the endorsements of many black Democrats, including New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Jindal was able to win only nine percent of the black vote. Media silence triumphed again. Isn’t there a fascinating political story in there for national reporters to investigate? 

Ray Nagin didn't endorse Blanco? I forgot that. On the heels of the Tavis Smiley Temper Tantrum, it infuriates me that the national media is so obviously partisan when it comes to Republican outreach to minorities, especially blacks. Black Republican candidates for governor's seats (Lynn Swann, Kenneth Blackwell) and Senate seats (Michael Steele) are generally ignored. The same apparently goes for any non-white Republican statewide candidate -- even when they win.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis