Former Prince George's County, Maryland Executive Jack Johnson was sentenced today to over seven years in prison for, according to Eric Tucker at the Associated Press, "extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes during a tenure that prosecutors say was rife with greed, corruption and an unchecked pay-to-play culture." Tucker failed to identify Johnson as a Democrat.
The AP is not alone. A Google News Search on "Jack Johnson Prince George's County" (not in quotes, past 24 hours, without duplicates) returned 51 items at 11:40 p.m. tonight (the first page says 152, but it's really 51). The following number of results came back in the same search when I added the word "Democrat" (also after the jump -- sordid details of Johnson's astonishing corruption):
A couple of NewsBusters posts during the past week -- one from yours truly and another courtesy of Ken Shepherd -- have pointed to the press's reluctance to identify the Democratic Party affiliations of indicted Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson and his also-indicted wife Leslie, who is a County Council member.
Today, the Associated Press's Brian Witte kept up the wire service's tradition of either not naming the party of an indicted Democrat or deferring that identification until very late in the report (in the apparent hope that subscribing outlets picking up the story won't use it). Jack Johnson's party affiliation was saved for the 19th paragraph; Witte never identified his wife's party affiliation. Witte further quoted a Republican who commented on the situation in Paragraph 10, and noted that said Republican "ran against Johnson in 2002" in Paragraph 11, leaving it vague as to whether it was a primary or general election contest.
Finally, Witte gave voice to people who believes that the Johnsons and ultimately other county officials are being targeted based on their African-American ethnicity -- in county where two-thirds of its residents are African-American.
Here are selected paragraphs from Witte's report:
A major news story this weekend here in the D.C. area has been the federal bribery probe that resulted in the Friday afternoon arrests of outgoing Prince George's County [Md.] Executive Jack Johnson (D) and his wife Leslie -- also a registered Democrat -- who was elected two weeks ago to a County Council seat.
At the time federal officials told the media that more arrests were forthcoming, and sure enough, this morning three Prince George's County police officers were arrested as part of the Johnson case.
Yet in their November 15 story on the officers' arrests on the Breaking News Blog, Washington Post staffers Mary Pat Flaherty and Matt Zapotsky failed to note Jack Johnson's party affiliation, despite the fact that Johnson's party ID is hardly a state secret in the heavily Democratic county and the fact that Post staffers Rosalind Helderman, Hamil Harris and Ashley Halsey III noted Johnson's Democratic party affiliation in the fourth paragraph of their Metro section front-pager this morning.
In Maryland, Prince George's County's top elected official, County Executive Jack B. Johnson (pictured at right on NB's home page) was arrested yesterday, and "is accused of accepting cash in return for helping a developer secure federal funding."
Johnson's wife, a recently elected councilperson, was also arrested yesterday. The couple are both accused of "tampering with a witness and evidence relating to the commission of a federal offense, and destruction, alteration, and falsification of records in a federal investigation."
The linked article at Gazette.net does not identify the Johnsons' political party affiliation. When this failure to identify occurs, it typically means that the politicians involved are Democrats. As expected, the Johnson are indeed Dems (Jack; Leslie).
Sadly, it is not at all surprising that there is a virtual blackout on the Johnsons' party affiliation: