Jesse Jackson Jr.
Gayle King, the CBS This Morning co-host and a Democratic donor, on Wednesday attempted to rehabilitate former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., a man who went to prison for campaign finance violations. King interviewed Jackson and Jacqueline Jackson about a new book collecting letters the mom wrote to her son.
NBC and CBS on Thursday failed to label the scandal-tarred Jesse Jackson Jr. as a Democrat. Instead of identifying his political party, Today co-host Savannah Guthrie carefully explained, "And former Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. left an Alabama prison this morning, accompanied by his family." She then noted that he would serve more time in a halfway house.
She had four paragraphs to work with, yet Time magazine's Madison Gray found no space to note disgraced former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.'s political affiliation.
The Illinois Democrat is in the news again today as he entered prison Tuesday morning to begin serving his 2 1/2-year long sentence. Here's how Gray reported it for the "Nation" section of his magazine's website:
Of the East Coast's most prestigious papers -- The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post -- only the Journal today failed to note Jesse Jackson Junior's Democratic Party affiliation, with staff writer Devlin Barrett failing to mention that fact in his 11-paragraph story. For their part, Washington Post staffers Ann Marimow and Rachel Weiner did mention Jackson is a Democrat, but that came 13 paragraphs into their 32-paragraph front-pager in the August 15 paper.
But of the three major newspapers, it was the Times's coverage which gave readers the most biased coverage. Reporter Ashley Southall immediately noted Jackson's Democratic Party affiliation, but she painted his demise as a tragic fall from grace, not a run of the mill crooked politician-gets-his-just-deserts story:
On Thursday morning, neither ABC nor CBS labeled former congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. a Democrat as they reported on his 30 month jail sentence. NBC's Today did not report Jackson's sentence on Thursday, but on Wednesday they covered it without identifying him as a Democrat.
"Jesse Jackson, Jr. will spend two and a half years in prison. The former Illinois congressman was sentenced Wednesday," reported Charlie Rose, co-host of CBS This Morning. ABC's Josh Elliot said on Good Morning America that "former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. has been sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison for misusing campaign funds, spending $750,000 on things such as a gold Rolex and 500 dollar dinners."
USA Today's "breaking news" email ("Ex-Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. sentenced to 30 months") opened with the following opening sentence: "The nine-term Democrat from Illinois and son of the former civil rights leader had pleaded guilty in February to using $750,000 in campaign money to pay for living expenses, clothes and luxury items."
So it seemed like it would be a waste of time to click through to confirm that Jackson would be tagged as a Democrat in the story itself, right? Wrong. (UPDATE, Aug. 15: USAT revised the story and included a couple of Democrat references later in the day. The original as it appeared when this post was written is here.) USAT's Fredreka Schouten applied the "Democrat" tag once — to describe Mel Reynolds, the disgraced Congressman Jackson replaced in 1995, in her 18th paragraph. Excerpts follow the jump (bolds are mine):
CBS This Morning and NBC's Today couldn't be bothered to give Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s political affiliation as they devoted just 35 seconds of air time on Wednesday to his upcoming sentencing. Both morning newscasts merely identified the onetime Democratic politician as a former congressman.
The same morning, ABC's Good Morning America completely ignored the story about Jackson, who pled guilty in February 2013 to misusing campaign funds to buy big ticket items, such as a $43,000 Rolex watch, and Michael Jackson memorabilia.
Knock me over with a feather. A well-known local pro-gun control official, helped by an overwhelming $2 million in funding from a Michale Bloomberg-backed group, won last night's splintered Democratic congressional primary in the Illinois district (IL-02) formerly represented by Jesse Jackson Jr., which includes much of the South Side of Chicago, with 52% of the vote. A "whopping" 30,872 people pulled the lever for winner Robin Kelly.
Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit noted how little this really means: "It's setting the bar pretty low to say that electing an anti-gunner to Congress in Chicago would be proof of Bloomberg's strength." That of course is not how Alex Isenstadt at Politico reported it, virtually giving the platform to Bloomberg:
Sadly, MSNBC cannot follow sister network NBC’s lead in reporting the story of disgraced Democrat Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill) and his impending prison sentence for illegally using campaign funds for personal usage.
On the February 20 edition of NBC Nightly News as well as on the February 21 edition of Today, both shows correctly identify Jesse Jackson Jr. as a Democrat, but their MSNBC morning show Morning Joe skipped the important detail. [See video after jump. MP3 audio here.]
All too often when reporters are discussing Democrats caught in scandals, they develop a peculiar speech impediment that prevents them from uttering the "D" word. However, when members of the GOP stumble, the word "Republican" cascades out of the mouths of reporters.
When news broke on February 15 that former Democratic Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. was charged with improperly spending campaign funds on (among other items) Michael Jackson and Bruce Lee memorabilia, the Big Three (ABC, CBS, NBC) network anchors and reporters struggled to get their lips to form the word "Democrat." In 15 total stories on Jackson, reporters failed to utter the "D" word in 11 of them (73 percent). On the February 21 CBS This Morning Jackson was labeled a Democrat, but only in an on-screen graphic.
In a February 20 column which lamented as a tragedy the mess that former Rep. Jesse Jackson (D-Ill.) got himself into by improperly using campaign resources for extravagant personal expenses, Washington Post personal finance columnist Michelle Singletary scolded her readers to "think about the mess you might have made of your finances or the financial follies of people you know" before "pass[ing] judgment on the Jacksons."
In a column in which she never mentioned Jackson's party affiliation, Singletary suggested that the Illinois Democrat procured luxury items including a $43,350-gold-plated Rolex watch because he and his wife Sandi were "eager to impress their more wealthy colleagues or the people who run with them in their circle of power and privilege," but she added that it was "[n]ot an excuse, just an observation."
**UPDATE** Ginger Gibson recently updated her article to include party ID of Jesse Jackson Jr.
In a 615- word article on Politico’s website on February 20, author Ginger Gibson failed to inform her readers that the disgraced former Illinois congressman was a Democrat, a fact that Politico and a growing list of media outlets continue to do. Instead, Politico simply refers to Jackson as a “[f]ormer Rep.”
Gibson's article was published just moments after Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty in federal court to charges stemming from the misuse of campaign funds, including spending $43,450 on a gold Rolex watch.