Guilt By Association Used by Old Media Only to Hurt Republicans

-By Warner Todd Huston

Last week two political operatives were arrested in separate incidents, one Democrat and one Republican. It certainly isn’t news that political operatives sometimes break the law, but how the different incidents were reported is typical of how the Old Media establishment uses guilt by association to tar Republicans but rarely does the same thing to take swipes at Democrats.

The similarity in the two stories is that both of the accused are former staffers of high profile politicians. The Democrat was an Obama campaign staffer while the Republican was a staffer of the Republican Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker. Neither currently works for those high profile pols, but only the Republican was linked to his former boss. The Democrat’s link to Obama was mostly ignored by the media.

Story One: Some Guy Arrested

We’ll begin with the tale of Iowa Democrat operative Zachary Edwards who tried to steal the identity of a rival Republican in order to use that identity to get the Republican in trouble.

Edwards tried to use the identity of Iowa Secretary of State, Republican Matt Schulz (and/or Schultz’s brother) to illegally obtain some sort of state benefits so that he could then claim that the Republicans were illegally obtaining state benefits. This Edwards fellow hoped he could smear the GOP Sec. of State as engaging in some sort of unethical behavior. (The Iowa Republican blog has more on the fight between Schultz and Iowa Democrats)

Now, as it happens Edwards is not only a member of a politically connected Democrat consulting firm, Link Strategies — a company with long-standing ties to powerful Iowa Democrat Senator Tom Harkin — but Edwards was also a member of Obama’s Iowa team in 2007/08. Edwards’ bio has since been scrubbed from the Link Strategies page but read in part, “In September 2007, Zach joined the Obama New Media department as co-director of the Nevada New Media team and then moved on to direct New Media operations in five other primary states (New Mexico, Texas, North Carolina, and South Dakota).”

For a screen shot of Edwards memory-holed bio from the Link Strategy site, see the Iowa Grounds blog.

So, how was Edwards’ arrest reported? For one thing, it was hard to find Edwards’ Democrat affiliation and his past role as a top Obama campaign staffer in stories of this incident.

It is interesting to note that the story of the criminal action by this former Obama staffer is not easy to find. Few Old Media outlets bothered to cover it.

Story Two: Those Darn Criminal Republicans

Our second story is that of the arrest of Mr. Tim Russell of Wisconsin. Russell was a former aide to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and is accused of stealing funds intended for wounded veterans and families of U.S. soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan — an odious crime, indeed.

Russell had been a Walker campaign staffer and county aide up until the Governor took the top seat in the state but has since not been working for him. Along with two others, Russell was arrested for a scheme to defraud the state of $42,000 that was earmarked for veterans.

So, how did the Old Media handle this tale of criminality? Unsurprisingly, Russell’s ties to Walker and his party affiliation were either in the headline or the very first paragraph, if not both. And there were dozens of stories posted on this incident, too.

  • The New York Times slammed Walker with guilt by association in its headline and first paragraph.
  • Reuters did the same thing as the NYT.
  • The Associated Press follows suit by mentioning Walker in the headline and the first paragraph.
  • Green Bay’s NBC affiliate also features Walker in the headline, etc.
  • In a companion story, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel also prominently features the perp’s party affiliation.
  • Politico pulls the same stunt as the others.

There are more stories than these few, of course. In fact, there are far more stories about this former Walker aide than there are about the Obama operative. Politico, for instance, never reported on the Democrat criminal. Apparently the news of the criminal actions of a former staffer for a mere governor is far bigger news than that of a former staffer of the President of the United States.

In any case, this is a perfect illustration of how the Old Media goes for the jugular when reporting on criminal Republicans compared to how they (don’t) go after Democrats in similar instances.

It’s just apiece with the Old Media’s bias against Republicans. All the news that’s fit to warp.


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  • Well, there is a reason for it you either seem to have missed, or left out intentionally. From the New York Times link:

    Tim Russell, a former close aide to Gov. Scott Walker, and Kevin Kavanaugh, Mr. Walker’s appointee to the Milwaukee County Veteran Service Commission, were arrested Thursday on felony embezzlement charges as part of a continuing criminal investigation that centers on people who served during Mr. Walker’s tenure as Milwaukee County executive.

    In the Russell case, they are investigating the time he was a part of Walker's staff. He stole the funds while he was an aide for Walker.

    In the case of Edwards, he was summarily fired once arrested from his job at a Democratic company, and there is no tie currently to him and the President.

    So honestly, how SHOULD these two stories be reported? Edward's party affiliation matters, and should be included. The fact that Russell was an aide of Walker at the time of the crime should be reported, too.

  • Jeffie,
    Good point, and nicely made.

    One the other hand though, Edwards was engaged in a crime against democracy. He was using a dirty trick to try and ruin the reputation of a political opponent and potentially cause that person to be jailed. Wouldn't it seem like the political affiliation is central to the story? Furthermore, it would not seem to be out of bounds to report the other campaigns he has worked on that might have benefited from his unethical behavior.

    One the other hand, you have a case of greed. Russell was not in any way trying to advance the Republican party. He was just a greedy, corrupt person who deserves a lengthy prison sentence if convicted. His political party was not central to the story because it was not a political crime. If Walker was responsible for supervising Mr. Russell then that is certainly news but if hundreds of people worked for Walker wouldn't you expect that some percentage of them would have engaged in illegal activity? I don't have a problem with mentioning the Walker connection if that is standard procedure when any government employee is arrested. Where the problem comes in is that, as the original post mentions, the linking of criminal activity to a political party seems to be highly dependent on which party to which the accused criminal belongs.

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    Anyone who bitches to me about mainstream-media bias against Republicans is preaching to the choir, but I gotta say: this particular indictment is lame.

    I agree with Jeffie that it was appropriate for the NYTimes, Reuters, Politico, the AP, et al. to mention Russell's former connection with Gov. Walker. And I agree with Publius that KCCI, the Des Moines Register, and the Dubuque Telegraph Herald were remiss in failing to report Edwards' past and present Democratic connections. Were those provincial news-organs applying a double standard? I don't know, since Publius doesn't tell us how they covered Russell's arrest. Anyway, I'd rather know how the NYT, Reuters, and Politico reported Edwards' arrest, but Publius doesn't say anything about that, either.

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