Decade-Old Press Cover-up Comes Back To Haunt As Seattle Mayor Ends Reelection Bid

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced on Tuesday that he will not run for reelection as the city's mayor because of mounting allegations that he sexually abused underage boys in the 1980s. Press coverage has either ignored Murray's Democratic Party affiliation or buried it in related stories' late paragraphs.

This outcome also exposes a double standard in the Evergreen State press, and should (but probably won't) lead management at these outlets, particularly at the Seattle Times, to question why they chose not to report multiple allegations against Murray which first surfaced almost a decade ago.

Stories at CNN.com and NPR both failed to tag Murray as a Democrat.

Three related stories found at the Associated Press at least found room for the Democrat tag, but waited thirteen, twelve and eight paragraphs, respectively, to note it. (The second AP item is a timeline entry which has had no additional entries since 3 p.m. on Tuesday; the most recent eight-paragraph entry has no party tag, while the second most-recent entry applies the tag in Paragraph 4.)

Here is most of the NPR report from Martin Kaste, which essentially transcribes a Wednesday morning report on the network's Morning Edition. Kaste conveyed a level of sympathy which hardly seems justified in the circumstances (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Seattle Mayor Drops Re-Election Bid, Says Sex Abuse Allegations Are Untrue

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray announced on Tuesday that he will not run for re-election because of allegations that he sexually abused minors three decades ago.

Murray is a skilled, bare-knuckled politician and it was assumed he would cruise to re-election this year.

But a few weeks ago, he was sued by Delvonn Heckard, 46, who says that back in the 1980s, Murray paid him for sex when Heckard was a minor.

The suit echoed claims made by other men a decade ago, but Murray, 62, vehemently denied wrongdoing. He even got a doctor to rebut certain anatomical evidence offered by his accuser.

But finally, on Tuesday, Murray gave up on seeking a second term.

It's a sobering end to the political career of a man who pushed through civil unions in the state Legislature, and then became Seattle's first mayor in a same-sex marriage.

Political analyst Geov Parrish had urged Murray to bow out, but he says there are some lingering misgivings about how unproven allegations have brought the mayor down.

"The gay community is really concerned about how this applies to them — especially gay men. Because of course the conservative critique of gay men in caricature for many, many years was that they're all pedophiles," Parrish says.

But in the end, Seattle's liberal political establishment turned its back on Murray ...

... Parrish says if these claims don't stick in court, it'll be very sad that they were enough to end Murray's political career.

So apparently the benchmark now for deciding whether or not a politician with the "correct" political views has been genuinely discredited isn't whether the allegations by those claiming they were sexually abused as minors in civil suits are true. Instead, it's whether they "stick." The betting here is that if Murray settles these matters out of court without any admission of guilt, the Seattle press will determine that the charges didn't "stick." I wonder where I can find media stories with the same level of sympathy towards accused Catholic priests?

As to what Murray's move does to the "gay community," a better question would concern the damage done to other victims in general who might be afraid to come forward as a result of the Seattle press's apparent collective decision to suppress allegations about Murray's past behavior when they first appeared in 2008. It's fair to ask whether "political analyst" Geov Parrish, whom NPR failed to disclose has primarily been "a journalist and social justice activist," was more interested in taking gratuitous shots at conservatives than in expressing sympathy for the plight of underage sexual abuse victims.

As cryptically noted in NPR's report, the Seattle Times and other news outlets in the Emerald City were quite aware of not one, but two similar allegations against Murray while he was in the Washington State Senate. As I noted in a NewsBusters post on April 10, the paper's attempt to justify its 2008 decision to ignore the original allegations when the new ones surfaced a month ago rang hollow. Here is part of what I wrote (link is in original):

... the Times's poor judgment in 2008 is coming back to haunt it. It's one thing for there to be a single accuser, but there were two, clearly increasing the odds that there was something to each story.

... the paper has had to acknowledge its previous omissions (plural). It attempted to explain away killing the story in 2008 in a separate column by claiming that "we felt we did not have enough information to publish these very serious accusations." In other words, in Seattle, your serious allegations against a "progressive Democrat," even if there are two people making them ... won't get recognized by the local paper, which claims to be serving as a watchdog, unless and until you file a lawsuit and force the issue.

But in Washington State, serious allegations against Republicans and conservatives don't get the same generous treatment from the local or national press.

One such instance, relayed to me by Tim Graham at NewsBusters, concerned Jim West, the Republican Mayor of Spokane who lost a recall election in 2005. Here is coverage at the Seattle Times from when West was recalled:

Spokane mayor recalled from office after Internet sex scandal

Mayor James E. West was recalled from office Tuesday in a special election prompted by news accounts that he offered City Hall jobs and perks to young men he met in a gay Internet chat room.

West, 54, a Republican former state legislator who voted against gay-friendly bills, must leave office when the election results are certified Dec. 16.

... The (Spokane) Spokesman-Review newspaper conducted an undercover investigation and reported in a series of articles beginning May 5 that West was a closeted homosexual who visited gay chat rooms on his city-owned computer and offered internships and other favors to young men he hoped to have sex with.

... The recall petition contended West used his political office for personal benefit by offering a city internship to someone he thought was an 18-year-old man he’d met in a gay online chat room. The person, who West knew by the screen name “Moto-Brock,” actually was a computer expert hired by the newspaper to track the mayor’s activities in a Gay.com chat room.

West, who has not been charged with any crime, acknowledged making mistakes in his personal life, but asked voters to give him a second chance.

The newspaper also printed allegations by two men with criminal records that West molested them when they were children and he was a sheriff’s deputy and Boy Scout leader in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

West vehemently denied the molestation allegations, and no criminal probe was launched because the statute of limitations had long expired.

Note the quick second-paragraph application of the Republican tag. Also note that the Spokane newspaper reported allegations of past molestation without being forced to as a result of the filing of a publicly visible lawsuit.

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West died seven months later. The Associated Press's obituary tagged him as a "conservative former Republican state Senate majority leader" in its second paragraph.

To be clear, though its sting tactic was arguably questionable, the Spokane newspaper originally reported what it knew on a timely basis — as it should have. Too bad the Seattle press, especially the Seattle Times, didn't do its job to expose the accusations against Murray in similar circumstances, apparently giving him cover because he is a "progressive" Democrat.

If the Murray situation ends up going in the direction it appears to be headed, seeing how the Seattle Times and the city's leftists try to explain away the fact that their permissive, "gay-friendly" culture allowed a child molester to serve as their mayor for over three years, and as a state senator for the six years before that, should be quite a spectacle.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.