Network evening newscasts ignore IG report finding politicization of hiring practices in DOJ honors program

››› ››› JULIE MILLICAN

Continuing a pattern of ignoring developments in the ongoing investigation into the firing of several U.S. attorneys, none of the broadcast networks' June 24 or 25 evening newscasts reported on the Justice Department Inspector General's findings of politicization of hiring practices in several of the department's recruiting programs.

Continuing a pattern of ignoring developments in the ongoing investigation into the firing of several U.S. attorneys, none of the broadcast networks' June 24 or 25 evening newscasts reported on the Justice Department Inspector General's findings of politicization of hiring practices in several of the department's recruiting programs.

As The New York Times reported, the report, released June 24, "is the first in a series of internal reviews growing out of last year's controversy over the dismissals of nine United States attorneys," and, according to the Times, found that "Justice Department officials illegally used 'political or ideological' factors in elite recruiting programs in recent years, tapping law school graduates with Federalist Society membership or other conservative credentials over more qualified candidates with liberal-sounding résumés." The report focused on the hiring practices associated with the Justice Department's Honors Program, which it described as "the exclusive means by which the Department hires recent law school graduates and judicial law clerks who do not have prior legal experience," and the Summer Law Intern Program, which "is the Department's hiring program for paid summer interns." The report stated that "beginning in 2002, a Screening Committee composed primarily of politically appointed employees from the Department's leadership offices had to approve all Honors Program and SLIP candidates for interviews by the [department's] components." As the Times reported, the report "found that 'many qualified candidates' were rejected" by the Screening Committee "from two key recruiting programs ... because of what was perceived as their liberal bent." From the Times:

Ideological and political factors can be used in hiring political appointees, but it is illegal to do so under federal civil service law and Justice Department guidelines in hiring career lawyers. Victims can sue, but offenders cannot generally be prosecuted under criminal law.

The report, based on interviews with dozens of officials and a review of e-mail correspondence, found that "many qualified candidates" were rejected from two key recruiting programs -- the attorney general's honors program and the department's summer intern program -- because of what was perceived as their liberal bent.

Those practices, the report concluded, "constituted misconduct and also violated the department's policies and civil service law that prohibit discrimination in hiring based on political or ideological affiliations."

[...]

The effect was clear, the report found, with applicants with a Democratic affiliation rejected "at a significantly higher rate" than those with Republican, conservative or neutral credentials.

For instance, in 2002, all seven of the honors applicants with membership in the American Constitution Society, a liberal group, were rejected, while 27 of 29 applicants with ties to the Federalist Society, a bedrock conservative group, were accepted [for an interview].

Similarly, 43 of 61 applicants with ties to the Democratic Party were rejected, while 41 of 46 applicants listed as Republicans were accepted [for an interview]. Many of those rejected were regarded as "highly qualified" based on the quality of their schools and other criteria.

As Media Matters for America has repeatedly noted, the broadcast networks' evening newscasts -- ABC's World News, NBC's Nightly News, and the CBS Evening News -- initially were slow to report on the controversy surrounding the dismissal of several U.S. attorneys and have a history of ignoring developments relating to the controversy. For instance, the CBS Evening News did not cover former Justice official Monica Goodling's May 23, 2007, testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, in which Goodling admitted she "crossed the line" and "may have gone too far" by taking "inappropriate political considerations into account" in hiring career Justice officials, potentially a violation of the law. A review* of CBS Evening News transcripts found that, to date, Evening News still has not reported on Goodling's testimony. According to The New York Times, "[a]nother aspect of the [Inspector General] review will look at the work of Monica M. Goodling."

* A Nexis search of CBS transcripts for terms "show:(Evening News) and (Monica w/5 Goodling)" yielded these results.

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