CBS reported DeLay's attack on Earle but omitted Earle's rebuttal

››› ››› JOE BROWN

Following the indictment of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) on conspiracy charges, the nightly news broadcasts on the three major television networks ran stories on the unfolding scandal. But while all three programs covered DeLay's accusation that Ronnie Earle, the Travis County, Texas, district attorney who filed the charges, is a partisan Democrat on a political vendetta, only ABC and NBC noted that during his career Earle has prosecuted substantially more Democrats than Republicans. CBS allowed DeLay's accusation to go unchallenged.

On the September 28 broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight, ABC News chief Capitol Hill correspondent Linda Douglass noted, "DeLay says the prosecutor is a Democrat on a witch hunt." Her report featured a video clip in which DeLay called Earle "an unabashed partisan zealot, with a well-documented history of launching baseless investigations." But in an analysis segment following Douglass's report, George Stephanopoulos, anchor of ABC's This Week, noted that although Earle is a Democrat, "his office says that he's prosecuted actually more Democrats than Republicans."

Similarly, on the September 28 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News, NBC News correspondent Chip Reid noted Earle's Democratic politics and spotlighted a video clip of DeLay, who called Earle's case against him "the product of a coordinated, premeditated campaign of political retribution, the all-too predictable result of a vengeful investigation led by a partisan fanatic." But Reid's report also featured a clip from a March NBC interview in which Earle stated, "We've prosecuted four times as many Democrats as Republicans. This is not about Democrats and Republicans. This is about cops and robbers."

The September 28 broadcast of CBS' Evening News featured only DeLay's accusations against Earle, with no rebuttal. CBS News national correspondent Jim Stewart reported, "DeLay believes ... the personal vendetta of Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle [is] the real cause of his problem," and spotlighted a video clip in which DeLay claimed, "Mr. Earle is abusing the power of his office to exact personal revenge for the role I played in the Texas Republican legislative campaign in 2002." But Stewart's report made no mention of Earle's record of prosecuting more Democrats than Republicans.

From the September 28 broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight:

DOUGLASS: Sources familiar with the case say there is more evidence. DeLay says the prosecutor is a Democrat on a witch hunt.

DeLAY: An unabashed partisan zealot, with a well-documented history of launching baseless investigations.

[...]

ELIZABETH VARGAS (anchor): The indictment today has big implications for the Republican Party and the president. And ABC's George Stephanopoulos joins us. George, Mr. DeLay says he's a victim of a, quote, "political witch hunt" by a, quote, "partisan fanatic." Is any part of that true?

STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, Ronnie Earle is a Democrat. But his office says that he's prosecuted actually more Democrats than Republicans.

From the September 28 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News:

REID: DeLay today unleashed a bitter attack on Earle, who is a Democrat.

DeLAY: This act is the product of a coordinated, premeditated campaign of political retribution, the all-too predictable result of a vengeful investigation led by a partisan fanatic.

REID: But in an interview with NBC News earlier this year, Earle vigorously denied his investigation of DeLay was motivated by politics.

EARLE: We've prosecuted four times as many Democrats as Republicans. This is not about Democrats and Republicans. This is about cops and robbers.

From the September 28 broadcast of CBS' Evening News:

STEWART: The charge against DeLay is Texas in its details, but national in scope. Its origin is in a nasty fight three years ago over control of the Texas state legislature that at one point had local Democrats literally fleeing the state to deny Republicans a quorum. DeLay wanted control of the state legislature in Texas to help build a bigger national GOP majority in the U.S. Congress. But to get it, he and his allies allegedly used corporate funds they funneled through a national Republican committee. They won, but the problem is, in Texas, corporate political funding can be illegal. Now DeLay believes those twin victories and the personal vendetta of Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle are the real cause of his problem.

DeLAY: Mr. Earle is abusing the power of his office to exact personal revenge for the role I played in the Texas Republican legislative campaign in 2002.

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Stories/Interests
Tom DeLay Scandal
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