Network Morning Shows Downplay Burris Perjury Allegations

February 16th, 2009 1:52 PM

Chris Wragge, CBS Monday morning show coverage of allegations that Illinois Senator Roland Burris may have perjured himself with respect to connections to impeached Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich minimized calls for investigation or Burris’s resignation. On the CBS Early Show, correspondent Thailia Assuras explained: "State Republican lawmakers are calling for Senator Roland Burris to resign and be investigated for perjury...The U.S. Senate could move to expel Burris, but analysts say that's unlikely to happen. It's not the kind of distraction Senate Democrats need as they try to move forward the president's agenda."

On NBC’s Today, correspondent Lee Cowan had a similar take: "...some Republican lawmakers here are now calling for Senator Burris to resign. At the very least, some want to see a criminal investigation launched to see whether or not he perjured himself. As for his colleagues in the U.S. Senate, so far they're reserving judgment." ABC’s Good Morning America barely mentioned the controversy, only offering one 15-second news brief on the story. In addition to downplaying the issue, none of the three morning shows mentioned that Burris was a Democrat. Only the Early Show featured an on-screen graphic with ‘Illinois (D)’ next to Burris’s name while playing a clip of the Senator.

Early Show coverage almost portrayed Burris as a victim of Republican opponents as fill-in co-host Chris Wragge declared: "Political opponents of Senator Roland Burris, appointed to Barack Obama's seat, are already calling for Burris to resign." Thalia Assuras later described how those Republicans: "...allege he lied in January before the Illinois House Impeachment Committee investigating charges that Governor Rod Blagojevich tried to sell the Obama seat for campaign contributions or high-profile jobs."