NBC, CBS uncritically aired Putnam's claim that GOP forced out Foley after learning of sexually explicit IMs

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

Newscasts on NBC and CBS uncritically aired a clip of Rep. Adam Putnam claiming that Republicans "acted proactively" and "aggressively" in demanding Rep. Mark Foley's resignation. In fact, Foley reportedly resigned after being told by ABC News that it was going to make public sexually explicit instant messages linked to him, and House Speaker Dennis Hastert's own statements regarding the events leading up to Foley's resignation have been contradictory.

On the October 8 edition of NBC's Nightly News Weekend Edition, NBC News correspondent Chip Reid uncritically aired a clip of Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) falsely claiming that "within hours of the explicit emails [allegedly from then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) to an underage page] coming to light," House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's (R-IL) office "acted proactively" and "aggressively" in "demand[ing] Foley's resignation." Similarly, on the October 8 edition of CBS' Evening News, CBS News Washington correspondent Joie Chen also uncritically aired Putnam's assertion that Hastert's office "acted proactively" and "aggressively" against Foley. Putnam made the claim on the October 8 edition of ABC's This Week. In fact, a prior statement by Hastert himself contradicts Putnam's claim.

Though Putnam referred to emails, he was presumably referring to the sexually explicit instant messages Foley allegedly sent to an underage page. Foley resigned on September 29, reportedly after being told by ABC News that it was going to make public the instant messages allegedly linked to him; ABC had earlier reported on an email exchange between Foley and an underage page. Moreover, in his first public statement on the Foley scandal, Hastert acknowledged that the House leadership played no role in Foley's resignation; Hastert later changed his story, as Media Matters for America documented.

Reporting on the "furious debate over whom to blame for the Foley scandal," NBC's Reid aired comments from House Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Rahm Emanuel (D-IL) and Putnam but failed to rebut Putman's claim that Hastert's office forced Foley to resign:

REID: On the Sunday talk shows, a furious debate over whom to blame for the Foley scandal. Rahm Emanuel, head of the House Democratic campaign committee pointing directly at House Republican leaders.

EMANUEL [clip from ABC News' This Week]: When he wants to retire, they ask him to run for re-election in 2006 even knowing clearly there's something amiss and wrong here.

REID: But Republican Adam Putnam says there's only one culprit: Foley himself.

PUTNAM [clip from ABC News' This Week]: The speaker's office acted proactively. They acted aggressively and within hours -- within hours of the explicit emails coming to light, they demanded Foley's resignation.

REID: Putnam appeared on the show because of the Foley scandal, sitting in for Congressman Tom Reynolds, head of the Republican campaign committee. He's in upstate New York struggling to hold on to his job.

Also reporting on the Foley scandal and referring to Putnam, Chen noted that the GOP had "rustl[ed] up a last-minute stand-in to defend party leaders" on This Week amid reports that Rep. Thomas Reynolds (R-NY) canceled his appearance. Chen's report uncritically aired part of Putnam's false claim that Hastert's office "acted proactively" and "aggressively" against Foley.

From the October 8 edition of CBS' Evening News:

CHEN: Reynolds, the pointman for the GOP campaign effort, bailed out of a national TV appearance this morning, rustling up a last-minute stand-in to defend party leaders.

PUTNAM [clip from ABC News' This Week]: The speaker's office acted proactively. They acted aggressively.

CHEN: But even as Republicans try to close the door on the Foley story, new details emerge. A former page tells today's Los Angeles Times he had sex with Foley, but only after he'd left the program and was 21 years old. That former page says he has not been officially questioned by anyone yet. But remember, we're only in the early stages, Russ [Mitchell, anchor]. The House ethics committee and the FBI are in the early stages of their investigation and will begin questioning witnesses this week.

Network/Outlet
CBS, NBC
Show/Publication
CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine, Mark Foley Scandal
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