WaPo Puts McCain Ties Before Obama Ties in Governor (D) Scandal

NB’s Ken Shepherd reported yesterday that AP’s early story on the corruption indictment of Puerto Rico Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila (D) lacked a party label (and the governor’s status as an Obama superdelegate), although it appears later updates fixed the missing party label. Friday’s Washington Post put the scandal on Page One, but reporters Carrie Johnson and Matthew Mosk mentioned the scandal’s ties to John McCain through adviser Charlie Black (in paragraph 6) before mentioning the governor’s political party and Obama endorsement (in paragraph 12).

The indictment alleges that Gov. Acevedo Vila solicited secret and improper contributions and enriched himself with fancy suits and free vacations. At least the McCain ties weren't put on the front page. The story turned inside at paragraph 4, and looked like this:

The interim U.S. attorney who brought the charges, Rosa Emilia Rodriguez-Velez, said Acevedo Vila corrupted his office, lied to tax authorities and undermined "the essence of our representative form of government."

For months, Acevedo Vila has challenged the fairness of the grand jury investigation, enlisting lawyers and friends, including Puerto Rico's Washington lobbyist, Charles R. Black Jr., to help press his view.

Black, who is a top adviser to presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain, last year contacted members of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- where Rodriguez-Vela's confirmation was approved Aug. 2 -- to inform them of his concerns about leaks from the investigation, he said. But Black said he did it as the governor's friend and did not bill Puerto Rico's government for his time.

And here is paragraph 12:

A Democratic superdelegate, Acevedo Vila last month threw his weight behind Sen. Barack Obama's presidential bid, endorsing him at a news conference as "the right leader to unite all Americans." In a statement in response to the indictment, Obama spokesman Bill Burton distanced the governor from the campaign. "Though he is a supporter, he holds no title and has no formal role with the campaign," Burton said.

Puerto Rico's Democratic primary is scheduled for June 1. The Post caption on page 4 contained no party identification:

In San Juan, Gov. Anibal Acevedo Vila called the indictment the product of "three years of leaks, rumors, and a spectacle aimed at harming me."

(Hat tip to Presser John, and to Brian Boyd, who knew Puerto Rico would rock the news cycle one day.)

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