Today Show Refuses to Attach Democratic Label in CA 'Corruption On Steroids' Story

September 22nd, 2010 4:25 PM

NBC's Tamron Hall blared, "It's being called 'corruption on steroids'" while George Lewis added, "It's been an angry summer in Bell, California, once people learned that city officials awarded themselves huge six figure salaries at taxpayer's expense." However neither of them mentioned, in two different stories on Wednesday's Today show, that those corrupt officials belonged to the Democratic Party. Lewis, strangely, couldn't even bother to identify the party of Jerry Brown -- who has a soundbite in the piece going after the officials -- as he just called him "The California attorney general running for governor."

Incidentally, the Today show wasn't the only news outlet to conveniently drop the "D" label next to those officials accused of bilking California taxpayers. As Newsbusters' Lachlan Markay pointed out on Tuesday, "ABC, CBS, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, Bloomberg, USA Today, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, and the San Francisco Chronicle all reported on the arrests today without mentioning party affiliations."

The following Lewis story and Hall anchor brief were the September 22 Today show:

TAMRON HALL: In Bell, California it's being called "corruption on steroids." Eight current and former city officials spent the night in jail after being arrested for misappropriating more than $5 million in city funds. NBC's George Lewis has details. George, good morning.

[On screen headline: "'Corruption On Steroids' California City Officials Busted For Graft"]

GEORGE LEWIS: Good morning, Tamron. It's been an angry summer in Bell, California, once people learned that city officials had awarded themselves huge six figure salaries at taxpayers' expense. Now those officials face serious felony charges. City Manager Robert Rizzo, busted at his luxury home in Huntington Beach, California, had home had been pulling down $800,000 a year in salary, twice what President Obama makes. His total benefits came to about $1.5 million annually.

STEVE COOLEY, LOS ANGELES COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: The charges accuse Rizzo of being responsible for at least $4.3 million of the city's losses.

LEWIS: Rizzo is one of eight city officials, present and former, charged with numerous accounts of misappropriating public funds. When police went after Mayor Oscar Hernandez, they had to break down the door of his house with a battering ram.

COOLEY: This was calculated greed and theft accomplished by deceit and secrecy.

LEWIS: The district attorney making it clear he's going after anyone connected with this.

COOLEY: I would charge my mother if I had evidence against my mother.

UNIDENTIFIED OFFICIAL: Please I need respect from everybody. Please!

LEWIS: In July, when people found out about the astronomical salaries the city officials were getting, they stormed city council meetings demanding their resignation. And when news came of the arrests on Tuesday, some citizens literally jumped for joy.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: We did it! I'm happy. I'm happy! This is what I was waiting for from the very beginning.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: We just love the idea of all the city council going to jail in handcuffs.

LEWIS: The California attorney general running for governor is suing the Bell City officials trying to recover much of the money.

JERRY BROWN, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: When you see it, you can smell it. And this stinks to high heaven.

LEWIS: Today when former city manager Rizzo appears in court, the district attorney will ask the judge to set his bail at $3.2 million. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is asking the attorney general to appoint a temporary overseer to run day to day business in Bell. Tamron?

HALL: Alright George, thanks a lot.


TAMRON HALL: And eight current and former city officials in Bell, California are facing charges of bilking taxpayers out of millions of dollars. A prosecutor called the case "corruption on steroids."