Abramoff Down the Memory Hole

Just a little taste of how President Obama’s administration is going to be covered. Hint: it won’t be as soft as the coverage of the current Resident, not by a long shot. At least there is a stronger alternative media/blogosphere than existed in the 1990s.

George Zornick writes: Yesterday, a congressional report revealed that disgraced uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, wire fraud, and tax evasion, and remains at the center of one of the largest influence-peddling scandals in recent memory, met with the president of the United States at least six times and that there were over 150 verifiable contacts between Abramoff and White House officials, and probably many more — these contacts included White House officials who went to Abramoff “seeking tickets to sporting and entertainment events, as they did seeking input on personnel picks for plum jobs.” When asked about the report, White House spokesman Tony Fratto’s dismissive response was, “Give me a break.”

Luckily for Fratto, the press largely did. These revelations were not reported on any of the major networks broadcasts last night. Nor could the story be found on the front page of The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, or The Washington Post today.

This is nothing new for coverage of the Abramoff scandal. Recall, back when the scandal broke in 2005, that the press largely refused to hold Republicans responsible for what was clearly a Republican scandal of epic proportions. (None other than the National Review’s Rich Lowry wrote that the Abramoff mess “is, in its essence, a Republican scandal, and any attempt to portray it otherwise is a misdirection.”)

But the press didn’t usually agree. For example:

Chris Matthews asked, while discussing the scandal in January 2006, “[D]on’t you have to be a real ideologue, a real partisan to believe that one party’s more crooked than the other?”
No Democrat ever took money from Abramoff directly. But that didn’t stop NPR’s Mara Liasson from saying it, nor Tim Russert, nor Katie Couric, nor Bill O’Reilly, nor the AP, nor The New York Times.

The Washington Post uncritically reported Grover Norquist’s claim that Abramoff didn’t meet with President Bush in May 2001, even though there was a photo reported to show that Abramoff was there.

David Brooks baselessly claimed Abramoff only met with Bush twice, based on some incomplete Secret Service logs, and Brit Hume did the same, even though the White House itself acknowledged there were more visits not mentioned in those logs.

The press also repeatedly brushed off the scandal — The New York Times’ Anne Kornblut, only hours after the Associated Press reported that Abramoff told Vanity Fair magazine he had close ties with President Bush and White House senior adviser Karl Rove, cited what she called “good news” for the White House, which is that “no one’s talking about Jack Abramoff anymore.” Chris Matthews predicted in early 2006, “It’s not going to be part of a larger story of Washington this year, I think.”

When this same House panel released a preliminary report on the Abramoff/White House connections in 2006, revealing far more ties than previously acknowledged, CBS and NBC didn’t cover it at all. That same report led directly to the resignation of Susan Ralston, a senior adviser to Karl Rove. But the three major networks — on all shows, morning, evening, and weekend — completely ignored the resignation, fulfilling White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino’s prediction that “nothing more will come from the [congressional] report, no further fallout from the report.”

And then there’s the current “break” being given to the White House. Which all, of course, leads to this question: What if this had happened to a Democratic president, and Abramoff’s name was Jim McDougal?

(Here’s a clue: Yesterday on Fox News, the name “Rezko” was mentioned 19 times, and the name “Abramoff” zero times, according to Lexis).

[From Media Matters – Altercation by Eric Alterman]

Can we elect a new national corporate media in 2008 as well? Please?

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