Perhaps in response to media critics, the establishment press has generally been more likely to prominently apply a party tag to Democrats charged with crimes or affected by scandals in recent years — not nearly as often or as prominently as for Republicans and conservatives, but an improvement over the almost laughable situation a decade ago.
But in its treatment of Ed Murray, beginning Thursday afternoon, when the Seattle Times first reported on a lawsuit's allegation that the Seattle Mayor had paid for sex with an underage boy in the 1980s, the press has returned to its old ways. Why is that?
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The lengthy initial Seattle Times report by Lewis Kamb and Jim Brewer noted that two others had raised similar charges in the past, and that they are interested in testifying in the lawsuit which was filed:
Lawsuit alleges Seattle Mayor Ed Murray sexually abused troubled teen in 1980s
... Murray, who is running for re-election this year, vehemently denied the allegations. He abruptly canceled a news conference about police reform scheduled for Thursday afternoon and did not make a public appearance.
... (Lawsuit filer) D.H. is not the first to accuse Murray, one of the state’s most powerful politicians, of sexual abuse that occurred decades ago. Murray, 61, has known of other allegations for years, and has quietly, but vigorously denied them.
Two men, Jeff Simpson and Lloyd Anderson, said they knew Murray when they were growing up in a Portland center for troubled children, and later as teenagers. They accuse Murray of abusing them in the 1980s when he was in his 20s. Simpson made the claim as a teen in 1984, and talked with a social worker and detective at the time. No charges were filed.
The reporters finally recognized that Murray is a Democrat in the story's 33rd of roughly 60 paragraphs. Therein lies the first clue as to why they waited so long. You see, Ed Murray is not just any Democrat, he's a progressive Democrat, and a "face of resistance" to Donald Trump:
Murray, a progressive Democrat whose work in the Legislature made him a champion for gay rights, was elected Seattle’s mayor in 2013. He’s enjoyed a series of successes in his first term, and lately he’s drawn national attention as a prominent face of resistance to President Donald Trump’s agenda. He has been considered well-positioned this year to win a second term.
In between, the Times revealed that it was aware of the aforementioned allegations by others against Murray — and chose not to report them:
Both men raised the allegations a decade ago, with one making calls to reporters and Washington state lawmakers. They repeated the accusations in recent interviews with The Seattle Times, saying they would testify in court if needed.
Now, with the D.H. lawsuit, Murray faces a formal public accusation for the first time, and details of the case bear similarities to the earlier allegations.
While The Seattle Times chose not to publish the 2008 allegations, the similarities between those claims and the new public case gave additional weight and relevance to the previous information.
(Mayoral spokesman Jeff) Reading’s statement acknowledged Simpson and Anderson’s accusations: “The two older accusations were promoted by extreme right-wing anti-gay activists in the midst of the marriage equality campaign, and were thoroughly investigated and dismissed by both law enforcement authorities and the media.”
All three of Murray’s accusers have substantial criminal records.
Jeff Reading is surely aware that there's a big difference between "thoroughly investigated and dismissed" and the Times's position that it "chose not to publish."
What appears to be happening is that the Times's poor judgment in 2008 is coming back to haunt it. It's one thing for there to be a single accuser, but there were two, clearly increasing the odds that there was something to each story.
As seen above, the paper has had to acknowledge its previous omissions (plural). It attempted to explain away killing the story in 2008 in a separate column by claiming that "we felt we did not have enough information to publish these very serious accusations." In other words, in Seattle, your serious allegations against a "progressive Democrat," even if there are two people making them (obviously now three), won't get recognized by the local paper, which claims to be serving as a watchdog, unless and until you file a lawsuit and force the issue.
The parallels aren't perfect, but there certainly wasn't anything resembling this kind of restraint during the 2016 presidential campaign's sexual imposition feeding frenzy with Donald Trump. The idea that there would have been similar restraint if by some miracle Seattle had a Republican or conservative mayor is too ludicrous to even entertain.
The Times, and the Democratic Party, are getting ample protection from the Associated Press and others:
- The AP's original Thursday story on the lawsuit by Martha Belisle did not tag Murray as a Democrat. Though it referred to his two other accusers, Belisle did not mention the Times's failure to report what it knew in 2008.
- A Friday timeline item containing four entries at the AP's "Big Story" site and the three photos accompanying it also have no Democratic Party label.
- Friday evening, as seen in the Chicago Tribune, the AP's Belisle and Rachel La Corte seemed in virtual mourning over the timing, writing that "Just as he took on a role as a high-profile critic of President Donald Trump and prepared to launch a re-election campaign, Murray was hit Thursday with a political bombshell." They did tag Murray as a Democrat three times, beginning in Paragraph 13. Each time, it was indirect, in that they referenced others with whom they spoke as "fellow Democrat(s)."
- A lengthy early morning Washington Post item by Avi Selk seen at the Denver Post also had no room for a party tag, and noted that "other (Seattle) media" failed to report the 2008 allegations.
Meanwhile, the Times is in no mood to tag Murray as a Democrat any more than it absolutely has to, and has openly identified why news about Murray's alleged misdeeds is likely to get little additional national press attention, as seen here:
‘So many land mines’: Accusations against Mayor Murray stir up emotions
Land mines abound in the allegations against Ed Murray, with some worried about both feeding homophobic stereotypes and failing to support abuse victims.
If the Times had done its job in 2008, we might very well not have this self-created quandary.
I would suggest that those who are genuinely worried about homophobic stereotypes — certainly including many in the Times newsroom — shouldn't have bent over backwards to advance and protect the political career of someone who, now according to three different people, allegedly fits those stereotypes.
Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.