- The Washington Times - Friday, June 24, 2005

Major news outlets that largely ignored the controversial comments of the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate last week immediately reported on a fiery speech by White House adviser Karl Rove, giving the story front-page prominence and the lead of newscasts.

Early yesterday morning, NBC’s “Today” show, the CBS “Morning Show,” and ABC’s “Good Morning America” all featured the Democratic outrage over Mr. Rove’s comments that after September 11 liberals “wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers” while conservatives “prepared for war.”

Each network’s nightly newscasts on Thursday also ran stories on Mr. Rove’s speech, delivered Wednesday night.

On June 14, Senate Minority Whip Richard J. Durbin compared the military’s interrogation techniques at the prison camp at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to that of the Nazis and other murderous regimes.

Yet CBS did not broadcast a single story on the Illinois Democrat’s comments. “Today” and “Good Morning America” and those networks’ nightly news programs didn’t air anything about it until the senator apologized after a week of complaints by Republicans, the Anti-Defamation League and veterans groups.

“What the networks did was zero, zero, zero, zero on Durbin, and as soon as Rove shows up, boom,” said Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the conservative Media Research Center. “To say that one deserves zero coverage and the other huge coverage is just bizarre.”

Steve Lovelady, managing editor of the Columbia Journalism Review Daily, said he’s “not sure if the network morning shows even qualify as journalism these days,” describing them as “yuk-fests with periodic headline updates tossed into the mix almost as an afterthought.”

But he was still puzzled about why CBS, including their evening news program, ignored the Durbin story altogether. “Nothing about Durbin ever, even after the apology,” he said. “I’d love to hear how they justify that.”

Calls to CBS, ABC and NBC for comment were not returned.

The Washington Post reported the Democratic outrage over Mr. Rove on its front page yesterday, but Mr. Durbin’s remarks never made it there. The newspaper published its first story on the Durbin controversy three days after the speech on page A-11. The story was kept inside for its duration.

The New York Times played the Rove story on page A-16 yesterday, a 776-word bylined story. The newspaper’s largest story about Mr. Durbin was 381 words, published inside three days after the firestorm erupted.

New York Times public editor Byron Calame and The Washington Post did not return calls for comment.

The White House press corps also handled both stories dramatically differently. Questions about Mr. Rove dominated the White House press briefing the day after the speech was delivered with spokesman Scott McClellan being peppered with 22 questions on the subject.

A solitary reporter asked for the White House’s response to Mr. Durbin’s speech — two days after it was delivered — and Mr. McClellan was asked about it just two more times.

Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar at the Poynter Institute, a school for journalists, said he doesn’t think the discrepancy in coverage is necessarily a product of bias against Republicans. “The one that occurs to me is the difference between speakers,” Mr. Clark said, explaining that Mr. Durbin, despite his leadership position, has a lower national profile than Mr. Rove.

“Karl Rove has come to have, since the election, a much higher profile, yet he is a character we don’t see [in public] as much,” he said.

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