Sen. Schumer Only a Rumor in Times's Democratic Scandal Coverage

After a long delay and some unsatisfying back-and-forth between bloggers and Times ombudsman Barney Calame, Thursday's New York Times prints a Raymond Hernandez story that finally notes the Democratic scandal involving aides to New York Sen. Chuck Schumer obtaining the credit report of possible Republican Senate candidate Michael Steele, the Lt. Governor of Maryland. The piece is at best dutiful, with little juice, from the dull and uninformative headline ("Democrats Are on Defensive In Maryland Senate Race") on down.

Hernandez opens: "National Republicans, who face an uphill battle in their efforts to capture the open United States Senate seat in heavily Democratic Maryland next year, are trying to exploit potential legal problems that Democrats are now suddenly facing in that race. The Republicans are seizing on a disclosure that two researchers at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee improperly obtained the credit report of Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, a Republican who is considering a bid for the Senate seat. In recent days, Republicans have sought to put Democrats on the defensive, saying the incident underscores just how concerned the opposition is to the prospect of a Steele candidacy."

Hernandez, whose Hillary-beat reporting has been favorable to Sen. Clinton, gives the victimizing Democrats plenty of room to defend themselves: "Democrats contend that the incident was nothing more than a lapse in judgment by the two researchers, who were suspended in July after reporting what they had done to senior officials at the committee. The two are Katie Barge, who was the committee's research director, and Lauren Weiner, her deputy, according to officials."

The Times doesn't mention the name of local liberal hero Sen. Chuck Schumer, head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (and a supporter of privacy rights legislation), until the very last paragraph: "Last week, five Republican senators wrote to the head of the committee, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, and asked him for assurances that the committee had not obtained their personal credit information. The committee responded that it had not."

A Newsday piece is more forthright on the link, leading with: "Two opposition researchers working for Sen. Charles Schumer at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee obtained copies of a confidential credit report on Maryland's Republican lieutenant governor, prompting calls for their prosecution. In July, committee research director Katie Barge and Lauren Weiner, a junior staffer, used Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele's Social Security number to get his credit report, according to a Democratic official familiar with the case." (Barge previously served as research director for the left-wing watchdog Media Matters for America.)

Blogger Matthew Hoy sees the paper spinning hard for "ideological friends" like Schumer: "The story is written as a horse race piece and not a hard news crime/scandal piece. You don't find out that there is a criminal investigation until the seventh graf. Talk about burying the lede."

For more coverage of bias in the New York Times, visit TimesWatch.

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