Another Case Study in Protective Instincts

Teamster Leader Carey's Disqualification Nothing More Than a Brief Story on CBS, NBC

Federal election officer Kenneth Conboy disqualified Teamsters President Ron Carey from running again for re-election after he diverted Teamster funds for last December's taxpayer-funded union elections. Big news? Not if you work at the networks.

When word broke Monday night, CBS and NBC only provided briefs. Late in its broadcast, ABC aired a John Martin story in which he referred to the Carey decision as "a disastrous setback for the union and the nation."

Carey's Teamsters strike against UPS drew much more network attention than the scandal that threatens the reputation of not only the Teamsters, but top Clinton fundraiser Terry McAuliffe, the AFL-CIO and other unions, and liberal groups who joined the illegal fundraising conspiracy. Today's Washington Times notes AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka has taken the Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself in the inquiry, which up until a rule change weeks ago would have forced him out of the union's leadership.

Clearly, the UPS strike had more news appeal to a broader audience than Teamster corruption does. But the prominence the Teamsters gained through the burst of strike coverage ought to make their current struggles more prominent than the near-blackout so far. To be specific:

The evening shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC aired 71 full stories and 17 anchor briefs on the strike, compared to just six full stories and four briefs on the scandal. The strike led Big Three evening newscasts on 23 occasions.

CNN's The World Today provided 31 full reports and seven briefs on the strike, leading its newscast with the story 11 times, but also presented seven full stories and four anchor briefs on the scandal, at least noting most of the newsworthy developments of the last three months.

The morning shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC aired 94 full segments on the UPS strike, but have devoted only three so far to the Teamsters scandal. (The shows also aired 86 anchor briefs on the strike, to just seven on the scandal.) The strike led the morning shows 20 times.

The Big Three morning shows aired 26 interviews on the strike to just two on the scandal. ABC has carried almost all of the coverage aired: one full story, two interviews, and six briefs. NBC's Today has aired one anchor brief in the last three months, and CBS This Morning has aired nothing.

While the networks each aired a story when Carey's election was overturned, they never mentioned monitor Barbara Quindel's intentional delay of that decision until after the UPS strike ended. Other missing stories:

Three pivotal figures in the Carey campaign pled guilty to fraud on September 18, including Jere Nash, who both ran Carey's campaign and volunteered for Clinton-Gore '96, and fundraiser Martin Davis, who told McAuliffe of his illegal schemes. Only ABC and CNN have reported it to this day.

Ex-DNC fundraiser Mark Thomann testified before the Senate on October 9 about the DNC improperly seeking donors for the Carey campaign in exchange for Teamster donations. ABC gave the hearing 17 seconds. The night before, NBC's Lisa Myers explained the DNC scheme in a story on Harold Ickes' Senate testimony.

The involvement of "campaign reform" groups like Citizen Action - which took $475,000 from the Teamsters and $150,000 from the AFL-CIO and then laundered it to Carey - remains the biggest man-bites-dog story of all. But TV hasn't touched it. - Tim Graham