MRC Special Report: The Media's Obama Miracle

How Journalists Pretend There Aren't Any White House Scandals

On Halloween 2011, MF Global Holdings filed for bankruptcy with a shady mystery: some $1.6 billion was missing from their customers’ accounts. Financial analysts blamed the company’s CEO, Jon Corzine, a former Democratic U.S. Senator and Governor of New Jersey, who became the center of an FBI investigation.   

One reporter underlined the political problem: Corzine was “one of the leading Wall Street fundraisers for President Obama’s campaign and suggested to investors that he might take a top administration post if the President were re-elected...His new legal troubles, sparked by the bankruptcy filing of his investment firm, MF Global, could complicate the President’s efforts to raise money from the financial community given Corzine’s central role in those efforts. A recent list of top ‘bundlers’ or elite fundraisers released by Obama’s campaign listed Corzine in the highest category -- reporting that he had raised more than $500,000 for the campaign.”   

That reporter was Michael Isikoff of NBC News – but his reporting didn’t make it to television. The story drew six full stories and 16 anchor briefs on ABC, CBS, and NBC, but only once was the former Democratic governor and senator’s party affiliation mentioned, when Kelly O’Donnell noted it once in her December 8, 2011 report for the NBC Nightly News. “A fallen Wall Street CEO, personally rich and politically well-connected....New Jersey’s former Democratic Governor and U.S. Senator Jon Corzine under oath...and under fire,” O’Donnell announced. In between those clauses, Corzine said “I do swear....I simply do not know where the money is or why the accounts have not been reconciled to date.”   

In their only full story on the same evening on World News, ABC’s David Muir announced “a former political heavyweight under fire tonight. Jon Corzine, once a U.S. Senator and governor of New Jersey, forced to explain himself to small, everyday investors today. He was testifying on Capitol Hill, saying he has no idea where their billion dollars in investment money went.”    On CBS Evening News, they sent correspondent Cynthia Bowers to talk to customers whose money was stolen. She asked one man: “So if you could run into Jon Corzine today, what would you say to him?” The man replied: “It would be a bad day for Jon Corzine.”   

NBC was the only network to notice in late March that Corzine may have lied to Congress. On March 23, Nightly News anchor Brian Williams reported: “According to a congressional memo released today, another executive claims that just days before the firm collapsed last fall, Corzine issued direct instructions to transfer $200 million from customer accounts to a brokerage account to cover a shortfall of funds. It’s an allegation Corzine has denied under oath. It is the latest piece in a complicated search for over a billion dollars worth of customer money that is now just gone.”    

Nowhere in this financial scandal was there a whisper of the name “Obama.”