by Stephen Silver
The announcement earlier this week that Pennsylvania Congressman Chaka Fattah had been indicted on 29 counts of racketeering and public corruption led to all kinds of questions – from Fattah’s political future, to who might run for Fattah’s House seat, to the implications for Fattah’s wife Renee, named as an un-indicted co-conspirator, who happens to be a local news anchor.
But the news brought about another sort of ridiculous recurring motif on the online right- the idea that the media somehow makes a habit of hiding the political affiliations of Democratic politicians when they get indicted or embroiled in a political scandal (“Guess that Party,” is the popular meme amongst conservatives online). Sometimes it’s paired with the argument that the media completely ignores scandals faced by Democrats, while rubbing it in when Republicans get hit with charges.
A few examples from Twitter on day of the Fattah indictment:
— BAH! Humbuggery… (@thehiredmind) July 29, 2015
Must be a "D," since there's no party label in article. | Rep. Fattah indicted w/29 counts. http://t.co/rGBwtCI7hi
— Matt Dole (@mattdole) July 29, 2015
Gonna take a wild guess and say this "Chaka Fattah" guy is a Democrat since no MSM outlet is listing his party identification.
— Kevin Binversie (@kevinbinversie) July 29, 2015
It's time for another exciting game of "Guess the Party"!
Pa. Congressman Fattah indicted on corruption charges http://t.co/9Hn2G9TWSO
— William J. Miller (@WilliamJMiller) July 29, 2015
— Ugly Kev (@uglykev) July 29, 2015
— William Keane (@largebill68) July 29, 2015
This is stupid for a variety of reasons. One, it’s… not true. If you click through every single article mentioned in those tweets… all either refer to Fattah clearly as a Democrat or as “D-Pa.” And of course, the media has far from ignored Fattah’s indictment. A Google News search of “Chaka Fattah” and “Democrat” returns more than 10,000 results, with Fattah’s party affiliation mentioned in articles about the indictment from numerous outlets, including the New York Times, NPR, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Yahoo News and the Philadelphia Inquirer, the editorial page of which called on Fattah to resign.
Here’s what a search of those phrases looks like:
But even if the liberal media were conspiring, for some reason, to systemically hide Chaka Fattah’s party affiliation, doing so would be completely pointless. That’s because everyone knows that Chaka Fattah is a Democrat.
Fattah is an 11th-term Congressman, first elected in 1994, who was active in Philadelphia politics for a good amount of time before that. For all that time he’s been in public life, he’s always been a Democrat, everyone has known that he’s a Democrat, and he even ran for mayor in 2007 in a Democratic primary, which is the focus of the indictment. If you’ve heard of Chaka Fattah, you know his name, and you’re reading a news story about him, you know which party to which he belongs. It’s not a secret.
This is kind of an old game, going back to the early days of the conservative blogosphere: Find one story that ignores a politician’s affiliation and use that as evidence of liberal media perfidy, while ignoring the dozens of outlets that did list it.
The Daily Caller, for instance, back in 2012 found a local NBC News story that neglected to mention the party of indicted Trenton Mayor Tony Mack. Then again, here’s a list of about 150 stories that did list Mack’s party. Here’s a Twitchy item from February complaining that a 13-word AP news alert- you know, a push notification on a cell phone- failed to call resigning Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber a Democrat. As opposed to the many actual news stories that did mention it. And this one faults media for failing to mention the Democratic affiliation of disgraced California legislator Leland Yee; the confusion is probably that the blogger refers to him as “Leland Lee.”
If you’re going to argue for persistent liberal bias in the media, its failure to properly identify indicted Democratic officials by their party is a particularly poor example. Both because they didn’t actually do it, and because doing so would have been pointless even if they had.