Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-N.J.) ongoing public corruption and bribery trial commenced two weeks ago today, yet the mainstream media have barely bothered to afford the Democratic scandal any substantial amount of coverage.
Menendez is the first sitting senator in 36 years to undergo a federal corruption trial. The New Jersey Democrat was indicted in 2015 on bribery and corruption charges. He has been accused of wielding his political power and influence to dissuade the Department of Health and Human Services from collecting the $8 million his ophthalmologist friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen, owed in fines. The federal government also alleged that Menendez pocketed hundreds of thousands of dollars in re-election campaign contributions for personal trips.
If convicted, Menendez will be forced to resign from his Senate post amid his current plans to run for re-election in 2018, thus giving New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) the opportunity to appoint a Republican replacement to finish out the 2018 term. Democrats, already a minority in the Senate, would lose one of the crucial 48 seats their caucus holds.
But the major news networks appear to have largely turned a blind eye toward the embarrassing situation in which both Menendez and congressional Democrats have found themselves.
“If Bob Menendez were a Republican, his corruption trial would undoubtedly be headline news,” Rich Noyes, research director at the Media Research Center (MRC), told LifeZette in an email. “The media’s lack of coverage of his trial is just the latest evidence of journalists’ partisan double standard when it comes to scandals.”
Noyes noted that as of Monday night, MRC’s news analysts found that none of the broadcast evening newscasts from ABC, CBS and NBC, in particular, “had even mentioned the trial.”
“ABC and CBS have provided a minor amount of coverage on their morning shows: one minute, 48 seconds on ABC’s ‘Good Morning America’; 22 seconds on CBS’ ‘This Morning,'” Noyes said. “NBC’s ‘Today’ has provided zero coverage since the trial began.”
Although ABC, CBS and NBC provided little coverage for the Menendez scandal, the trial apparently is an issue that President Donald Trump’s supporters care about deeply. Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna Romney McDaniel said Tuesday on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that reading the response cards Republican supporters sent in over the last week revealed that the Menendez trial and its media coverage were at “the top” of these voters’ concerns.
“But right now what we’re seeing is an uptick in the Bob Menendez trial, and that’s really the top that we’re seeing right now, which is the lack of coverage that that’s getting,” McDaniel said.
To make matters worse for the mainstream media, McDaniel said that the ongoing Russia probe speculation running rampant in the media rates at a “negative 10″ on a scale of one to 10 of how interested the Republican supporters are about one of the press’s favorite topics.
“Actually, they’re frustrated by it,” McDaniel said. “They just feel like it’s just ridiculous. Look at the coverage that this gets. I mean, anything having to do with Russia, the president’s already convicted, he’s guilty. And then you’ve got Bob Menendez — the senator from New Jersey who used his office for a high-dollar donor to get visas, to do favors — under trial, the first time in 36 years that we’ve had [a] sitting senator on trial for bribery charges. Zero coverage.”
“So voters are smart. They are seeing it,” McDaniel continued. “They get it. And they think this Russia thing is ridiculous.”
Noyes also highlighted the mainstream media’s hypocrisy in choosing which New Jersey scandals to cover and which ones to sweep under the rug. In particular, MRC’s research director pointed to the “frenzied coverage” generated when Christie suffered from his so-called “Bridgegate” scandal.
Both Christie’s popularity and his 2016 presidential campaign were dealt significant blows when news broke that one of his staff members and some of his political appointees colluded to create severe traffic jams in Fort Lee in 2013. These closures constituted a threat to public safety and violated both federal and state laws, Port Authority Executive Director Patrick Foye said back in 2014.
The media devoured the “Bridgegate” scandal, which consumed the Republican New Jersey governor, while largely ignoring the scandals that plagued the state’s Democratic senator, Noyes noted, pointing to MRC’s research.
“It seems unlikely that these networks would similarly ignore the corruption trial of a sitting Republican senator charged with the same offenses. After all, they reacted with frenzied coverage in the first hours after the ‘Bridgegate’ scandal broke involving another New Jersey politician — Republican Governor Chris Christie,” Noyes said. “That story, which involved wrongdoing by his aides, was given 34 minutes of coverage in its first 24 hours; 88 minutes by the end of the second day.”
But the media have disproportionately ignored Menendez’s ongoing scandal while the congressional Democrats have been loath to criticize one of their own.
The day before the trial began, McDaniel issued a statement saying, “Democratic Senator Robert Menendez’s public corruption trial is a big deal, but it has been vastly underreported in the media. This case is ripe with corruption and chock full of lies involving lavish resorts, nearly $1 million in gifts, and political favors leveraged to benefit a wealthy donor who has already been convicted of defrauding Medicare of more than $90 million.”
“A sitting U.S. Senator involved in a federal bribery trial and facing 14 corruption-related counts is no small potatoes,” McDaniel added. “If convicted, Senate Democrats need to immediately call for his resignation.”
(photo credit, article image: Glyn Lowe Photoworks, Flickr)