New York Times Labels Shady Senator Bob Menendez as a Dem…When It Fits the Narrative?

September 25th, 2023 11:17 AM

Perennially shady Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ) was indicted by the Justice Department on bribery charges Friday, and the partisan labeling by the New York Times has been unpredictable, sometimes aggressively identifying Menendez as a Democratic senator, sometimes absolutely ignoring his party.

Coverage has been vigorous, with the Times unable to deny itself the juicy details of gold bricks and wads of cash involving a quasi-local pol. And electorally speaking, a Menendez indictment may not be perilous for the Democratic Party, given that New Jersey is run by a Democratic governor, who would appoint a Democrat to replace Menendez if he was compelled to resign from office.

By contrast, a notorious Times story from Menendez’s last legal battle in 2017 initially managed to leave out Menendez’s party affiliation entirely! It was surely coincidental that in 2017, New Jersey’s governor was Republican Chris Christie, who would have been able to replace Menendez with a fellow Republican, meaning the local political stakes for the Democratic Party were higher than they are today. That would have given the pro-Democrat paper even more incentive to downplay the “D” word.

Times reporter Glenn Thrush had the audacity to see a reputational silver lining for the Biden Administration in this new indictment, exemplified by the headline “Menendez Indictment Could Undercut G.O.P. Attacks on Justice Department.”  Thrush’s own story was unusually generous (for the Times) with the “Democrat” label, as if playing along with the narrative that Biden’s Justice Department is objective and above-board, look at this “Democrat” it’s prosecuting.

By contrast, Sunday’s lead story on Menendez by Nicole Hong, “Gold Bullion and Halal Meat: Inside the Menendez Investigation,” carried not a single “Democrat” label, a rather amazing accomplishment. Hong is a local reporter on the NYC economy, not a political reporter, but the total absence of such basic party identification is still flabbergasting on a basic journalistic level. (On the other hand, a related story by Nicholas Fandos was packed with “Democrat” labels.)

Skipping the “D” is the typical Times treatment. A 2011 Times story also 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.

In August 2008, reporter Adam Nossiter filed a story about Democratic House candidate Nikki Tinker, who ran adds suffused with racism and anti-Semitism in a Democratic primary in Memphis -- but the paper left out 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.