AP's Ed White Revises Earlier Report to Avoid Directly Tagging Convicted Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick as a Dem

October 11th, 2013 10:15 AM

Former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was sentenced to 28 years in prison yesterday. As has been the case for nearly six years as his scandals and prosecution have unfolded (seen here in dozens of NewsBusters posts), press coverage has usually avoided the inconvenient fact that Kilpatrick is a Democrat, and almost completely ignored Barack Obama's hearty endorsement of him during the early stages of his 2008 presidential campaign. A YouTube video from a May 2007 speech at the Detroit Economic Club shows Obama thanking Kilpatrick for "doing an outstanding job of gathering together the leadership at every level of Detroit, to bring about the kind of renaissance that all of us anticipate for this great city."

News outlets failing to note Kilpatrick's Democratic Party affiliation yesterday included the New York Times, CBS in Detroit, the Detroit Free Press in an item carried at USA Today, and Mike Tobin at Fox News. The Associated Press outdid itself in this regard, as will be explained after the jump.

Thursday afternoon, in a story since revised and apparently no longer available in its original form, the AP's Ed White presented a lengthy writeup about Kilpatrick's sentencing, but waited at least seven paragraphs to tag him as "a Democrat." (A Thursday afternoon CBS/AP hybrid report seen here waits until Paragraph 10.)

That treatment was apparently too specific for either White, his editors, or both.

White's Thursday evening report tags someone named Kilpatrick as a Democrat, but not Kwame. Just his mother, "former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, a Democrat who lost re-election in 2010," in Paragraph 15 of 24.

Here are some excerpts from White's deliberate whiff (bolds are mine; note how Kilpatrick isn't even named until the second paragraph):


A former Detroit mayor was sent to federal prison for nearly three decades Thursday, after offering little remorse for the widespread corruption under his watch but acknowledging he let down the troubled city during a critical period before it landed in bankruptcy.

Prosecutors argued that Kwame Kilpatrick's "corrupt administration exacerbated the crisis" that Detroit now finds itself in. A judge agreed with the government's recommendation that 28 years in prison was appropriate for rigging contracts, taking bribes and putting his own price on public business.

It is one of the toughest penalties doled out for public corruption in recent U.S. history and seals a dramatic fall for Kilpatrick, who was elected mayor in 2001 at age 31 and is the son of a former senior member of Congress.

While Detroit's finances were eroding, he was getting bags of cash from city contractors, kickbacks hidden in the bra of his political fundraiser and private cross-country travel from businessmen, according to trial evidence.

Kilpatrick, 43, said he was sorry if he let down his hometown but denied ever stealing from the citizens of Detroit.

... Kilpatrick was convicted in March, just days before Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder sent an emergency manager to Detroit to take control of city operations. The city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy in July, overloaded with at least $18 billion in long-term debt.

... Kilpatrick covered much ground in his 30 minutes of remarks to the judge. He said he hated being mayor after just six months because the job was so difficult. He lamented that his three sons now will grow up without their father, a problem in black families, and said his scandals "killed" the political career of his mother, former U.S. Rep. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, a Democrat who lost re-election in 2010.

As has been pointed out many times, the AP's policy on party affiliation has long been as follows:

Let relevance be the guide in determining whether to include a political fig- ure’s party affiliation in a story.

Party affiliation is pointless in some stories, such as an account of a governor accepting a button from a poster child.

It will occur naturally in many political stories.

For stories between these extremes, include party affiliation if readers need it for understanding or are likely to be curious about what it is.

Ed White thought that Kwame Kilpatrick's party affiliation was relevant in an earlier story, but irrelevant in a later one. Whatever his reasons are for making the change, they're not good. His revision violates AP's stated policies.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.