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Thomas: Media play favorites with congressional scandals

POSTED: November 7, 2008 5:00 a.m.

In September 2006, while on the verge of the 2006 Congressional midterm elections, Florida U.S. Rep. Mark Foley was caught up in a salacious sex scandal involving lewd e-mails and instant messages with congressional pages that resulted in his resignation.

The mainstream media pounced on the scandal, and many pundits believe the scandal contributed significantly to the Democrats regaining control of both houses of Congress in 2006.

On Sept. 17, 2006, about two weeks before the Foley scandal broke, a USA Today/Gallup poll showed Democrats and Republicans tied at 48 percent when voters were asked which party they preferred in congressional races. On Oct. 8, about a week after Foley resigned from Congress, the same poll had Democrats with a 23-point advantage over Republicans, 59 percent to 36 percent.

Of course, there were other contributing factors to the Republican losses, but the Foley scandal was the final nail in the coffin for the GOP in 2006. Other House members suffered in the scandal as well, as it was revealed that several had some knowledge of Foley's e-mails and messages well before the scandal broke. This included Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert and, as a result, there were calls for his resignation.

The press played a great role in keeping Foley's fall in the headlines. They asked questions and pressed hard for answers concerning what Hastert and others knew and when they knew it.

This is not happening in U.S. Rep. Tim Mahoney's current scandal. If you have not heard of Mahoney, you are not alone. The media has been suspiciously quiet in the matter.

Mahoney is caught up in his own sex scandal. Ironically, he is the Democrat who, campaigning on a platform of "faith and family values," won Foley's seat after the latter's disgraceful fall from politics.

Mahoney's scandal contains curious circumstances that may extend well beyond a U.S. representative committing adultery, but you wouldn't know it from the MSM's coverage.

For example, Mahoney paid off his mistress, who was a former staffer, to the tune of $121,000. He claims he paid her with his own money and not campaign funds, but are we simply to take his word for it? His mistress also was given a $50,000-a-year job with the advertising agency that handles Mahoney's campaign buys.

Also, according to Fox News, Mahoney has admitted to "multiple other affairs." He has not said specifically how many, but he has admitted to an affair with a high-ranking Martin county official from his congressional district. Fox News added that this affair took place while Mahoney "simultaneously (lobbied) the Federal Emergency Management Agency to give (Martin) county a $3.4 million hurricane clean-up reimbursement. The funds were awarded last year."

Mahoney has insisted that there was no quid pro quo, but again, are we simply to take his word for it? It seems the MSM is at least content to accept Mahoney's explanations, if not ignore the matter all together.

NewsBusters reported that, "though all three broadcast network evening news programs covered the Foley sex scandal when it was first revealed on Sept. 29, 2006, not one of them felt that the man who replaced him admitting to having an affair with a former campaign staffer was at all newsworthy."

Furthermore, no one seems to be pressing the House Democratic leadership, such as Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the chair of the Democratic Caucus Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., on "what they knew and when they knew it." According to ABC News, Emanuel had knowledge of Mahoney's affair last year and even confronted him about it.

ABC News also reported that, according to Mahoney staffers, "Senior Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives, including Rep. Rahm Emanuel ... have been working with Mahoney to keep the matter from hurting his re-election campaign." Yet ABC leaves it at that, as do the rest of the MSM.

I realize that media bias is something tossed around quite a lot, especially during an election season. Nevertheless, this situation reeks of bias. Thankfully the FBI is now involved in investigating Mahoney. I wonder how the MSM will feel about itself if the FBI upstages it in revealing the truth in this matter. I suppose it won't feel too badly as long as nothing comes out before Nov. 4.

The MSM kept the Foley scandal in the headlines up to the 2006 election and beyond. The liberal leanings of the media are no secret, and this is certainly further evidence. One popular talk-show host has referred to 2008 as "the year journalism died."

Looking the other way in Mahoney's case may have been the "final nail" in journalism's coffin.

Trevor Thomas is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear regularly; Web site.



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