New York Times reporter Nick Corasaniti’s initial 1,200-word story on the upcoming trial of Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey on federal bribery charges had everything but one little detail: His Democratic Party affiliation. It’s a bad habit by the Times to ignore party affiliation of scandal-plagued Democrats, while eagerly, sometimes instantly, identifying Republican politicians in similar straits.
The story itself (minus the amazing omission of a “Democrat" label for Menendez) was sufficiently tough on the senator, but also weirdly mentioned the “unrelenting turbulence of the Trump administration,” which has nothing to do with the long-standing allegations against Menendez.
The moment underscored the unusual predicament facing Mr. Menendez, a senior senator: For the first time in 36 years, a sitting United States Senator is facing a federal bribery trial, one that comes as a bitterly divided Congress reconvenes amid the unrelenting turbulence of the Trump administration.
Despite ample space, Corasaniti managed to avoid a basic piece of “Who?” information: What party does Menendez represent in Congress?
(After social media pushback, the Times allowed a puny insert in the below paragraph, although it came too late for at least one National edition of Tuesday's paper. The first sentence now reads: “Since his indictment more than two years ago, Mr. Menendez, a Democrat, has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence, and last week he reiterated that.”)
Since his indictment more than two years ago, Mr. Menendez has steadfastly proclaimed his innocence, and last week, he reiterated that. “I am going to be exonerated,” he said in a brief interview on Wednesday with reporters following a rally protesting President Trump’s immigration policies.
Mr. Menendez is charged with 12 corruption-related counts, including six counts of bribery and three counts of honest services fraud.
The retort from the defense was a reminder of what is at stake for Mr. Menendez: Not only must his team win over the jury that will hear the criminal case, but the senator must preserve his standing with voters, who will decide next year whether to re-elect him.
The trial, which is expected to last six to eight weeks, hinges not necessarily on the concrete evidence that the government has collected, but rather on subjective questions about intent, friendship and “official acts.”
Indeed, the defense for Mr. Menendez is unlikely to dispute some of the facts; that Dr. Salomon Melgen, a wealthy Florida ophthalmologist, bestowed on the senator lavish gifts of private flights, luxury accommodations and free vacations -- all which Mr. Menendez initially failed to disclose -- and he made more than $700,000 in direct and indirect political contributions to Mr. Menendez.
This sentence provided the only hint in the original of the senator’s political affiliation:
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When Dr. Melgen needed quick changes to a Medicare reimbursement program, he donated $300,000 through his company to Majority PAC, a super PAC supporting Democratic candidates for Senate. The same day, Mr. Menendez met with officials at Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and a month later, with Kathleen Sebelius, then the secretary of Health and Human Services, according to the brief.
It’s a bad habit by the Times to ignore party affiliation of scandal-plagued Democrats, while instantly identifying Republican politicians of similar status.
A 2011 Times story shielded the party of former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards after he was indicted on campaign finance violations involving covering up an affair.
A May 2017 story on Florida Dem. Corrine Brown’s indictment initially managed to leave off her party affiliation. Yet in November 2016 Times’ Christine Hauser couldn’t wait half a sentence before identifying former Rep. Aaron Schock as a Republican when he was indicted for wire fraud: “Aaron Schock, the former Republican representative from Illinois whose taste for first-class travel and a ‘Downton Abbey’-themed office design led to questions about his judgment and adherence to spending rules, was indicted on Thursday by a federal grand jury on 24 counts, including wire fraud and theft of government funds.”
Other Democrats in hot water, including Sen. Chris Dodd and Sen. Jesse Jackson Jr., were also spared a party label, while Republican Rep. Vito Fossella was readily identified as a Republican.
Most notorious, reporter Adam Nossiter in 2008 filed a disturbing story about racism and anti-Semitism in a Democratic primary in Memphis -- but left out the "Democrat" part (Item #2). Even then-MSNBC left-winger Keith Olbermann, in naming the candidate at the center of the story his "Worst Person in the World,” managed to identify offending candidate Nikki Tinker as a Democrat.