All three evening newscasts on Wednesday and the morning shows on Thursday identified disgraced former Congressman Chris Lee as a Republican. On the February 10 Today, Kelly O'Donnell twice tagged the ex-representative, who resigned after shirtless photos of him surfaced online, as "conservative."
The NBC reporter asserted, "The former Congressman is a former businessman, considered an up and coming conservative." Just seconds later, as a picture of the politician appeared, she added, "This is the image, shirtless and flexing, that tanked the political career of Chris Lee, a conservative, Republican Congressman from Western New York."
Continuing to made ideological references, O'Donnell pointed out: "He had even been given the plum job of delivering the weekly Republican address last spring."
On ABC's Good Morning America, George Stephanopoulos wondered, "This is- he's a Republican congressman from near Buffalo. This is still a seat likely to be held by the Republicans?"
Early Show correspondent Nancy Cordes on CBS noted, "Before yesterday afternoon, Christopher Lee was known as an upcoming Republican congressman from New York."
Today news anchor Ann Curry covered the story briefly in the 8 and 9am hours, but did not mention party ID.
On Wednesday night, World News and Evening News anchors Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric both identified Lee as a Republican.
Sawyer's take: "And, we have word tonight in the news that Republican Congressman Chris Lee of New York has resigned, effective immediately." Couric remarked, " According to Gawker.com, Republican Christopher Lee sent a topless photo of himself to a woman he met on Craigslist." On Nightly News, O'Donnell appeared and just referred to Lee as a"upstate Republican."
A partial transcript of the February 10 Today segment can be found below:
KELLY O'DONNELL: What's so sudden about this is how fast it all unfolded, from the time of the revelation of the scandal to resignation was just a few hours. The former Congressman is a former businessman, considered an up and coming conservative. And he said that he wanted to leave office so that his actions would not be a distraction. This is the image, shirtless and flexing, that tanked the political career of Chris Lee, a conservative, Republican Congressman from Western New York.
CHRISTOPHER LEE: We're here to get something done and that's really what it's really bout.
O'DONNELL: His stunning message was read by a clerk on the House floor.
HOUSE CLERK: I here by give notice of my resignation from the United States House of Representatives, effective 5pm, eastern standard time, Wednesday, February 9, 2011.
O'DONNELL: A lightening fast fall for the married father, just sworn in for a second term last month.
UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: Mr. Lee is recognized.
O'DONNELL: Lee took part in a House hearing just hours before quitting Congress.
LEE: Why, I think, Congress gets such a bad name is we don't listen to the American people. [cut to Lee ad] Hello, I'm Congressman, Chris Lee and I have the great pleasure of representing New York's 26th congressional district.
O'DONNELL: He had even been given the plum job of delivering the weekly Republican address last spring.
LEE: I've been in Congress now 16 months, but it doesn't take that long to figure out Washington does more talking than listening.
— Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.