All three broadcast network morning shows on Wednesday made a point of labeling Nevada Senator John Ensign as a “Republican” after the Senator came forward last night to admit having an extramarital affair last year. NBC, which refrained for days from calling New York Governor Eliot Spitzer a “Democrat” after his relationship with a prostitute was exposed, called Ensign a “conservative Republican,” while CBS made a point of reciting Ensign’s associations with Christian groups.

ABC’s Good Morning America provided the only full report, with the on-screen headline declaring “Leading GOP Senator Admits Affair.” News anchor Chris Cuomo and correspondent Jonathan Karl noted Ensign’s Republican affiliation three times: “A rising star in the Republican Party is coming forward....” “John Ensign is a member of the Republican leadership....” and “The Republican from Nevada admits cheating on his wife...”

Last year, NewsBusters noted how the networks always added the “Republican” label to GOP politicians caught in sex scandals, but not Democrats; with their coverage of the Ensign scandal this morning, the networks are maintaining their perfectly slanted approach.

George Stephanopoulos, ABC News Anchor | NewsBusters.orgABC News didn’t use any labels such as liberal or progressive to describe Judge Sonia Sotomayor during its Tuesday morning coverage of her nomination to the Supreme Court. On the other hand, when President Bush nominated Justice Samuel Alito to the high court in 2005, the network’s correspondents repeatedly used the conservative label to describe the nominee.

During the first segment of the 7 am hour of Good Morning America, before Sotomayor’s name emerged, This Week anchor George Stephanopoulos summarized who was on President Obama’s short list for the court nomination, including Sotomayor, describing the former or current occupations they have, but no ideological descriptions. When anchor Diane Sawyer asked about “what kind of fight is the White House anticipating” from Republicans in the Senate and “how do they plan to deal with it,” Stephanopoulos further explained that “Republicans and conservatives have already prepared dossiers on all three of the top candidates....I’ve talked to several Republicans in the Senate about this -- that the chances they’re going to defeat President Obama’s nominee are very, very low. The bar they’re trying to set -- they’re trying to have a debate over the future of the court, over the ideological direction of the court.” But he never mentioned Sotomayor’s judicial philosophy or political leaning.

A night after the CBS Evening News ignored CIA Director Leon Panetta's rebuke of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Saturday's newscast continued the blackout as anchor Jeff Glor only mentioned Pelosi in setting up a question by explaining she “put herself in a very awkward position” when “she said the CIA lied to her or misled her about water-boarding,” before he asked Time magazine veteran John Dickerson: “Is this something that's over for the Speaker now or does this continue?”

Though the whole topic is apparently already over for CBS News, Dickerson maintained “it's not over for the Speaker” as he proceeded to empathize with her plight by suggesting she's “got to hope another issue...blows her off the front pages” and that “when Congress goes home for their recesses that somehow she gets out of the news cycle because she's still in a fix.” But not one that interests CBS News.

Nor NBC, which like ABC on Saturday night, didn't utter Pelosi's name – possibly because all three evening newscasts were so exited about what they made their lead stories: President Obama naming Utah's Republican Governor, Jon Huntsman, ambassador to China. “A political masterstroke” declared ABC's George Stephanopoulos on World News in repeating the same phrase applied moments earlier by reporter Jonathan Karl. Stephanopoulos even managed to get in a dig at conservatives as he hailed the pick as “one more sign that this is a party [Republican] where the reformers -- the moderates -- are looking for an exit.”

After ignoring for three weeks House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's denial she was briefed by the CIA about how water-boarding was being used, only to decide it was news on Thursday when Pelosi at a press conference accused the CIA of “lying” and of “misleading” the Congress, on Friday the CBS and NBC evening newscasts fell silent again despite the backlash from CIA Director Leon Panetta, a former Democratic Congressman. He issued an emphatic statement about how “it is not our policy or practice to mislead Congress” and declaring: “CIA officers briefed truthfully on the interrogation of Abu Zubaida, describing the 'enhanced techniques that had been employed.'”

That was enough of a news hook for ABC's World News to make it the Friday night lead, as fill-in anchor George Stephanopoulos teased his top story: “Tonight, firing back: The CIA Director toe-to-toe with the Speaker. He says Congress was told the truth about interrogations.” Reporter Jonathan Karl recounted how Panetta is “pushing back hard against the Speaker of the House” and that Republicans are raising her hypocrisy in advocating punishment for those who authorized a technique of which she was aware.

He concluded by undermining her latest spin of claiming she was misled by Bush administration political operatives.

“The problem for Republicans right now is the party doesn't seem big enough for conservatives like [Rush] Limbaugh and moderates like Colin Powell and Senator Arlen Specter,” ABC's Jonathan Karl contended in a Wednesday night World News story on the plight of the GOP which, though framed by anchor Charles Gibson as exploring “whether it can attract new voters by becoming more conservative or more moderate,” came down, no surprise, on the side of those who think the party is already too conservative. Gibson pointed out: “The number of voters who have left the party is growing. In 2003, 31 percent of Americans identified themselves as Republican, 31 percent as Democrat. Now, only one in five say they are a Republican.”

Instead of considering the possibility the party lost support by moving too far to the left by being identified with President Bush's big spending policies or that the congressional leadership is hardly inspiring to conservatives, Karl presumed it's a problem that Dick Cheney, “the most visible Republican in the country these days,” has declared “his preference for Rush Limbaugh over Colin Powell.” Karl featured “Republican strategist” Mark McKinnon who ridiculed Dick Cheney and Rush Limbaugh: “If the Republican party does not expand its tent, it's going to turn into a circus, and it's going to become a minority freak show that sort of features Rush Limbaugh and Dick Cheney.” Karl followed up with how “Senator Lindsey Graham says more moderates is exactly what the party needs.”

The evening newscasts on Tuesday night attributed Senator Arlen Specter's motivation for changing parties to how he realized he wouldn't win the Republican primary in Pennsylvania, but they also, just as they did with Senator Jim Jeffords in 2001, eagerly relayed -- without any challenge -- Specter's spin that, in the words of the TV journalists, he “had been driven out by the right-wing of the Republican Party,” the GOP's “increasingly conservative tilt” and “the fringe of the party.”

CBS framed its story around that convenient target as the Evening News showcased Specter's charge in its tease: “The party has shifted very far to the, to the right.” Katie Couric noted that Specter “acknowledged he cannot win the Republican primary, so he's becoming a Democrat. But as Chip Reid reports, Specter says there were other reasons behind the switch.” Setting up the same Specter soundbite as in the tease, Reid reported the “moderate” Specter “says he's leaving the Republican party because the Republican party left him.” Reid bolstered Specter's concern by asserting “200,000 Pennsylvania Republicans have registered as Democrats in just the past year. Specter blames the party's increasingly conservative tilt.” Specter exclaimed: “There ought to be a rebellion. There ought to be an uprising.”

On NBC, Kelly O'Donnell described how “he would be facing a much more conservative challenger” in the primary and “couldn't risk” losing, before she related Specter's rationalization “that voters who tend to turn out in the primaries tend to be on the fringe of the party, not a moderate Republican like he is.” ABC's Jonathan Karl highlighted how “Specter said he had been driven out by the right-wing of the Republican Party.” Then viewers were treated to Specter scolding conservatives: “They don't make any bones about their willingness to lose the general election if they can purify the party. There ought to be a rebellion. There ought to be an uprising.”

Shortly after the House on Wednesday passed President Barack Obama's $825 billion “stimulus” package, ABC and CBS commiserated with Obama over his unsuccessful efforts to woo Republican votes. “Not one Republican voted for it,” ABC anchor Charles Gibson announced on World News with “Rescue Plan” as the on-screen heading, “turning a cold shoulder to the President's appeal for bipartisan support.” Reporter Jonathan Karl fretted: “So much for the President's charm offensive. Today it was all partisan rancor and name-calling.”

CBS reporter Chip Reid related how “the White House says this is a victory for the President, but certainly there is also some disappointment that he worked so hard to get bipartisan support and couldn't get a single Republican vote.” Reid soon chafed over how “Republicans relentlessly attacked the bill despite the President's extraordinary efforts to get bipartisan support.” Katie Couric noted how “the President went up to the Hill to personally appeal to Republicans already,” so, she pleaded, “what more can he do?”

Plugging how “Vice President Cheney sat down with ABC's Jonathan Karl for an exclusive interview,” fill-in World News anchor Elizabeth Vargas on Monday night asserted Cheney “made a startling admission about the questioning of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.” But Vargas failed to explain what Cheney said to Karl that represented “a startling admission” and Karl didn't point out any “startling admission” from Cheney in the interview excerpt which followed the Var

In an MSM eager for the advent of the Age of Obama, Kate Snow may have taken the cake.  The weekend GMA co-host almost sounded as if she were calling for some kind of coup d'etat, musing whether Obama should be urgently "forcing" change before he takes office. How over the top was Snow?  She had to be talked down from her fin de regime fantasy but none other than . . . Paul Krugman.

ABC reporter John Hendren set the tone for the notion that time is dangerously a-wasting.

JOHN HENDREN: As with Hoover and FDR, the ideological gap between Bush and Obama could be too broad to bridge, leaving us with two more months of costly economic drift.
A little later, interviewing Krugman, Snow made her startling suggstion.

Getting in some last shots at President Bush as his trip to Europe came to an end in London, CBS and ABC on Sunday night focused stories on Bush's unpopularity on the continent where “they're glad he's on his way out” and it's “an understatement to say that Mr. Bush is unpopular.” CBS correspondent Bill Plante asserted “much of Europe thinks of Mr. Bush as a cowboy who has ridden roughshod over the wishes of his allies and they're glad he's on his way out,” before the CBS Evening News featured a woman on the street who declared: “Good-bye. It was not fun. And I am looking forward to the change.” Then viewers heard from protesters: “George Bush? Terrorist! George Bush? Terrorist!” Plante proceeded to highlight:
According to a Pew Research Center poll out last week, Europeans -- a majority of Britons, French and Germans -- believe a new President means a better U.S. foreign policy, and for most Britons, French and Germans, Barack Obama's personal story and opposition to the war make him a heavy favorite over John McCain when it comes to their confidence in his handling of foreign policy.

"How much of a surprise is it that they can actually get inside the embassy? How fortified is that?" -- Diane Sawyer, 3-27-08, commenting on reports mortars and rockets had fallen inside Green Zone.

Someone get Diane Sawyer a crash course in indirect fire. Discussing this morning the recent flurry of rocket and mortar attacks landing inside the Green Zone in Baghdad, Sawyer supposed that the insurgents had somehow breached the perimeter themselves and fired from inside the US embassy compound!

Lt. General Raymond Ordierno on Thursday reported significant progress in reduced violence in Iraq, but of the broadcast network evening newscasts only ABC's World News bothered to cover the positive trend as anchor Charles Gibson introduced a full story on how “military officials gave one of the most upbeat assessments of the security situation in Iraq that we have heard since the opening months of the war.” The CBS Evening News* and NBC Nightly skipped the positive trend, but CBS had time for a story on the investigation of the September shooting of civilians by Blackwater and NBC aired a piece on Hillary Clinton “playing the gender card.” The Washington Post and New York Times on Friday also made very different news judgments on the importance of the positive direction as the Post put the news on its front page while the Times hid it in a story, on an inside page, about Iran's role in Iraq.

This was the third time in less than two weeks that ABC has uniquely highlighted positive developments in Iraq. On Tuesday, ABC ran a piece about “booming” shopping markets and significantly improving life in Baghdad and eight days earlier World News showcased Fallujah's “extraordinary comeback story.” (Details below)