Former Democratic Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was charged on Friday with improperly spending $750,000 of campaign funds on items such as Michael Jackson and Bruce Lee memorabilia (among other things). Yet, ABC's World News did not cover the story at all. On Saturday, Good Morning America allowed the news a mere 18 seconds. Over the course of the weekend, NBC's Nightly News, the CBS Evening News, Saturday Morning, Today and GMA never mentioned that Jackson is a Democrat. There was no coverage on Sunday.
Most, such as Evening News guest-host Anthony Mason, simply referred to Jackson as the "former Chicago Congressman." CBS correspondent Nancy Cordes spun, "Jackson, Jr., came to Congress in 1995, the promising and personable son of a civil rights leader, the Reverend Jesse Jackson." Cordes did highlight how the ex-representative spent his campaign funds, including "$43,000 on a gold-plated men's Rolex watch, $5,000 on fur capes and parkas and a long list of Bruce Lee and Michael Jackson memorabilia."
On Friday's Nightly News, Lester Holt highlighted the "former Chicago Congressman." The show's reporters followed up on Saturday with a second piece by Michael Isikoff. He went through the "once rising political star's" profligate spending, but again skipped mentioning Jackson's political party.
Still, this stands in contrast to ABC, which allowed a mere 18 seconds total on the scandal. After not covering the story on Friday night (including Nightline), Ron Claiborne on Saturday's GMA dispensed with it this way: "And former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. Was formally charged on Friday with misusing $750,000 in campaign funds. He allegedly spent the money on a gold Rolex watch, fur capes and Michael Jackson memorabilia, among other things. His wife, sandy, was charged separately for filing false tax returns."
This quick mention aired half way into the program.
On Saturday, CBS Saturday Morning barely built on the Evening News's full report. The February 16 program allowed only a news report. Saturday's Today covered the story in two news briefs.
On Sunday, Face the Nation, Meet the Press and This Week all skipped the story.
Transcript of Friday's CBS Evening News transcript and Saturday's brief GMA piece can be found below:
ANTHONY MASON: Criminal charges were filed today against former Chicago Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. Prosecutors say he spent three quarters of a million dollars in campaign money on himself. Including furniture at his home in northwest Washington. That's where Nancy Cordes is tonight. Nancy?
NANCY CORDES: Anthony, according to these court documents, Jackson spent more than $9,000 on children's furniture for this house using campaign funds and that was one of the more mundane purchases. He has been charged with one count of conspiracy -- which is punishable by up to five years in prison. Prosecutors paint 47-year-old Jesse Jackson, Jr., as a profligate spender who used campaign donations to indulge frivolous and expensive whims. $43,000 on a gold-plated men's Rolex watch. $5,000 on fur capes and parkas and a long list of Bruce Lee and Michael Jackson memorabilia, including a $4,000 guitar and a $4,600 fedora. Prosecutors say tens of thousands more went to pay down personal credit cards. Jackson, Jr., came to Congress in 1995, the promising and personable son of a civil rights leader, the Reverend Jesse Jackson. Last summer, the congressman disappeared for a month before revealing that he was being treated for bipolar disorder. He resigned in November and two months later his wife Sandy, who served as his campaign manager, stepped down from her position as a Chicago alderwoman. Today she was charged with one count of filing false tax returns. In a statement, the former congressman apologizes for improper decisions, but he adds "It is my hope that I am remembered for the things I did right."
CORDES: Lawyers for Mrs. Jackson say she has signed a plea agreement and sources tell CBS Mr. Jackson has, too. That means he likely won't face the maximum penalty, though he could still be looking at a couple of years of jail time a and a very large fine, Anthony.
RON CLAIBORNE: And former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. Was formally charged on Friday WITH misusing $750,000 in campaign funds. He allegedly spent the money on a gold Rolex watch, fur capes and Michael Jackson memorabilia, among other things. His wife, sandy, was charged separately for filing false tax returns.