Double Standard: Networks Hyped GOP E-mailer Mark Foley, Minimized Democratic Groper Eric Massa

With a disparity of five-to-one, the same network morning and evening news programs that displayed an eager interest in Republican Mark Foley's E-mail scandal minimized the groping and tickling of Democrat Eric Massa. In 2010, these shows offered a scant 30 stories to Democrat Eric Massa and details of how he engaged in naked shower fights. Over a 12 day period in 2006, 152 segments were devoted to Foley.

Additionally, this number of 30 is a generous one. From March 5 through March 16, the networks conducted only 13 full reports on Massa and eight anchor briefs. The remaining nine examples were mere mentions where Massa's name was simply highlighted. NBC's Nightly News showed the least interest in the Democratic Congressman. Anchor Brian Williams featured Massa in a quick 25 second anchor brief on March 5 and, briefly, the next day, during a Mike Viqueira piece on health care.

The ex-Representative's story, which certainly didn't lack for salacious details, only appeared again when Congressman Patrick Kennedy, in a speech to the House, decried journalists for "talking about Eric Massa 24/7." Williams' March 10 anchor brief and a clip of Kennedy accounted for one minute and 26 seconds. Nightly News' coverage for the actual Massa scandal totaled just 35 seconds. In other words, more time for the Rhode Island Representative's critique of the media than to Massa's alleged misdeeds.

In fact, Kennedy's use of Massa's name inflated the number of times the Congressman was highlighted. Good Morning America, the Early Show and Today all covered Kennedy and his condemnation of journalists for over-covering Massa, something that, in reality, they clearly did not do.

On the March 11 Early Show, Nancy Cordes parroted that "Kennedy was referring to the recent wave of media coverage surrounding Democratic Congressman Eric Massa." The Early Show featured Massa in just two anchor briefs, hardly a wave.

An October 11, 2006 Media Reality Check by the MRC's Tim Graham found that these same shows showed no such hesitation for Foley:

To measure the aggression of TV assignment editors on the Foley story, MRC analysts counted the number of stories devoted to the scandal and the repetitive insistence that Republicans are in deep political danger and may need GOP leaders to resign. On the ABC, CBS, and NBC morning and evening news programs, from the story's emergence on Friday night, September 29, through Wednesday morning, October 11, the Big Three networks have aired 152 stories. (A fraction of the stories were brief anchor updates.) The breakdown:

ABC: 50 (World News, 20; Good Morning America, 30.)

CBS: 46 (CBS Evening News, 15; The Early Show, 31.)

NBC: 56 (NBC Nightly News, 20; Today, 36.)

And keep in mind the differences between the two stories. Foley's acts, while certainly creepy, amounted to inappropriate instant messages to House pages. Massa admitted to groping and tickling staffers and claimed his exit was forced as part of a grand conspiracy by the White House. Yet, NBC's Nightly News, Today, ABC's World News, Good Morning America, CBS's Evening News and the Early Show all showed little interest.

-Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.