The AP's Take on Rangel Ethics Probe: Republicans Are Mean!

July 31st, 2010 12:50 PM

On Friday, the Associated Press published a shockingly partisan article about the ethics investigation against House Democrat Charlie Rangel.

Instead of giving a neutral account of the proceedings, the AP sourly reported that the GOP is getting its "wish" after Republicans "wanted" an election year embarrassment to use against Democrats.

The article, written by Larry Margasak with assistance from three other AP reporters, began with the word Republican and ended with endearing sentiments from a Rangel supporter. The actual charges against Rangel? Stuffed inside paragraph 19 and then quickly glossed over.

"GOP Gets Wish: Rangel Case in Campaign Season." Seriously, that's the headline chosen for charges made public against a Democrat. Behold the high standard of an "unbiased" news wire:

Republicans wanted an election-season ethics case against Democratic powerhouse Rep. Charles Rangel of New York. And now, it looks like they have one.

A House ethics panel of four Democrats and four Republicans, who will determine Rangel's guilt or innocence on 13 ethics charges, held its organizational meeting Thursday. The message going forward, from the top Republican on the panel, was: Let the trial begin. [...]

Republicans have already been making Rangel a campaign issue, and a fall trial would give them expanded opportunities. It can't start until September, because Congress takes off in August.

Soon after the charges were revealed, the National Republican Senatorial Committee warmed up its campaign message, issuing news releases in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Louisiana and Florida. The statements asked why Democratic Senate candidates in those states haven't yet returned money Rangel raised for them.

The obvious implication here is that Republicans are pushing for a full-blown trial, not to hold Rangel completely accountable, but to give themselves more ammunition for November. Poor Democrats are now in a bind where they can't refuse without looking corrupt:

In the frantic hours before the televised ethics proceeding, Rangel did take the advice of some Democratic colleagues and offered a new plea bargain in an effort to head off a trial.

At one point, people familiar with the talks said the committee's nonpartisan lawyers accepted the offer. But since committee members have to sign off, the McCaul and Bonner statements indicate they would accept nothing less than a total or near-total capitulation by Rangel in which he accepts guilt on virtually all the charges. Rangel's offer was not made public.

It would take at least one Republican vote to halt a trial. And ethics chairman Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., has made it clear she wants the committee to be unanimous at this point to avoid partisanship.

So let's get this right. Rangel approached the ethics committee at the last minute with a half-hearted deal that still didn't amount to a full confession. The attorneys involved - nonpartisan!! - accepted the deal without approval from lawmakers. When committee members caught on, they refused the deal.

It can't be that Democrats pressured Rangel to make a cynical plea bargain so the public wouldn't hear the charges before November. And it can't have anything to do with Democrats wanting to hit the campaign trail saying Rangel had already been dealt with. The developing Democrat meme is that Republicans are the ones playing political games, and the AP did a fine job of portraying that story.

Just in case readers have a stubborn idea that Rangel might be guilty, the AP interviewed two Harlem voters, one for him and one against him. But here's the kicker: the one who said Rangel should step down still never said anything about his possible guilt:

"He's seen his day. He's either not in touch with the community or insulated himself so that he doesn't have to be in touch with the community," Hendrickson said.

Michael Austin said it was unfortunate that Rangel's career had been clouded by the allegations. "I think he's been a wonderful congressman throughout the years," Austin said, adding that he would vote again for Rangel "based on his previous record."

Caught that? His illustrious career is being clouded by these pesky charges that Republicans are pushing, but a look at his professional record still makes him look good.

How helpful for the embattled Rangel. The last thing left to ring in a reader's mind is that he's a wonderful man who possibly deserves to be elected again.

Does the AP offer such moral support when Republicans are being investigated? On August 29, 2007, mere days after the airport restroom arrest of Larry Craig (R - Utah) was made public, here's how the AP covered it:

Two Senate Republican colleagues, including John McCain, called Wednesday for Sen. Larry Craig to resign. The White House, too, expressed disappointment in the case of the Idaho Republican caught in a men's room undercover police operation.

Arizona Sen. McCain and Norm Coleman of Minnesota, the state where Craig was arrested, became the first senators to join Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mich., urging Craig's resignation.

McCain told CNN the decision was Craig's to make, "but my opinion is that when you plead guilty to a crime, you shouldn't serve. That's not a moral stand. That's not a holier-than-thou. It's just a factual situation."

"I think he should resign," McCain said.

As usual when reading the Associated Press, what a difference with a D.