Did 60 minutes ambush or airbrush Democrats?


Breitbart.com leaked a clip last week about the upcoming (11/13) episode of 60 Minutes calling out a Democrat. The Breitbart.com clip was given the eye popping title: ‘60 Minutes Ambushes…Nancy Pelosi?’ It went on to show 60 Minutes reporter Steve Kroft in a heated exchange with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a press conference. I watched it four or five times to try and make sense of it. I was excited. I was a little scared, and that fear—like most fear—was based on confusion. What was this guy doing? Everything I thought I knew about the world was shaken at its foundation. Was this a mainstream media member attacking a Democrat? It seemed impossible to me then, but we’re all allowed to dream a little dream…even if it makes absolutely no sense to the outside world.

Then, during the CBS football game, a commercial came on with a voiceover that said, “If you think his poll numbers are low now, wait until you see this?” I don’t watch commercials.  I don’t even listen in if I can avoid it.  This caught my ear though.  It was a great tease, 60 Minutes knows how to tease with their commercials, but I missed who they were talking about when they mentioned ‘his’ poll numbers. I thought it was Obama. When poll numbers are discussed, I thought, 90% of the time they are talking about the president. I was intrigued. This was earth shattering to me. To me, this was the equivalent of Buster Douglas knocking Mike Tyson out, or Russia routing Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, or even The Simpsons beating The Cosby Show in ratings books. I didn’t have the mechanisms necessary to deal with this, but I would watch. As far as I was concerned this was real “must see TV.” I was even willing to miss the first quarter of Tom Brady versus the Jets for this…if necessary.

Minutes into the show, I realized it was House Speaker John Boehner they were referring to when they said ‘his’ poll numbers. I was disappointed, but I still couldn’t wait to see Kroft badger Pelosi. Even though I saw it four to five times on Breitbart.com, I was going to watch it again. I called people into the room, I wanted to invite family members over, so we could hold hands and cry with one another while it was being broadcast. What happened?  Well as any of you who have ever waited for Santa Claus or The Easter Bunny know, there is nothing but disappointment awaiting those who believe hype.

The 60 Minutes piece was based on the soon to be released book Throw Them All Out, written by Peter Schweizer. Schweizer is the William J. Casey research fellow at the Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank at the University of Stanford. The mere mention of the fact that Schweizer is a conservative would lead some to believe that the book would be yet another liberal hit piece. Not true. Schweizer calls many Republicans out for their impropriety involving insider trading in the halls of Congress. Every piece that encapsulates the book suggests that while Schweizer is a conservative everyone in Congress from the conservatives to Republicans to the liberals and Democrats has something to fear from this book. But watching the 60 Minutes piece “based on the reporting done in the book” would have only caused liberals to rejoice.  It was yet another partisan piece. I was so disappointed.

The 60 Minutes piece did, in fact, show the argumentative exchange between Steve Kroft and Nancy Pelosi, but it was all wrapped up in the exposés 60 Minutes did on the corruption of the Republicans involved in this scandal. Nancy Pelosi was the token Democrat that mainstream media types will usually trot out for fairness, but she was one politician against the four other politicians that were covered in this piece. 60 Minutes could’ve made John Kerry the token, but it appears they arbitrarily chose Pelosi to play the token Democrat in this piece. Interviews with Schweizer, and sources that have read advanced copies of the book, detail the fact that Schweizer calls Kerry one of the worst abusers, but the 60 Minutes piece “based on the reporting done in Schweizer’s book” didn’t even mention the Senator.

In the spirit of true journalism, Schweizer’s book named the names of some of the worst serial abusers of the Congressional blind eye to insider trading, including: Republicans Spencer Bachus (R, AL), Dennis Hastert (R, Ill), John Boehner (R, OH), and Judd Gregg (R, N.H.). Schweizer also mentioned as many Democrats: Harry Reid (D-Nev.), Max Baucus (D-Mt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jim Moran (D, VA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The 60 Minutes piece did not mention the aforementioned Democrats. They mentioned one token Democrat and four Republicans in their piece. This would lead any viewer of the 60 Minutes piece to believe that this scandal is 83% (plus or minus the margin of error) on the Republican side of the aisle, but Schweizer’s book, on which the Kroft piece was “based” details the fact that 60-70% of the offenders are Democrats.

Regardless of the partisan efforts of those at 60 Minutes, it appears that Schweizer’s has done a fine piece of journalism that excoriates Republican Congressmen as often as it does Democrat Congressmen. Schweizer appears to try to stay general in his approach, from everything I’ve read on his research for the book, while naming names of representatives from both parties.

Schweizer does detail that it’s a little shocking to him that it took someone from outside the journalistic ranks to expose this story:

“To me, it’s troubling that a fellow at Stanford who lives in Florida had to dig this up.”

On the scandal itself, Schweizer notes: “that the Senate’s ethics manual devotes an entire chapter to the proper use of the mail and of Senate stationery, but is silent on the subject of insider trading.”

On the issue of the double standard, Schweizer notes: “The only group in America that we exempt [from insider trading strictures is] politicians, who are probably the last people about whom we should be saying, ‘Oh, we’ll take their word for it.’ That’s what’s so amazing to me.”

“I was troubled,” Schweizer says, “By the fact that the political elite gets to play by a different set of rules than the rest of us. In the process of researching this book, I came to the conclusion that political party and political philosophy matter a lot less than we think. Washington is a company town, and politics is a business. People wonder why we don’t get more change in Washington, and the reason is that the permanent political class is very comfortable. Business is good.”

http://www.thedailybeast.com/content/newsweek/2011/11/13/peter-schweizer-s-new-book-blasts-congressional-corruption.html

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2011/11/13/60-minutes-cherry-picks-book-make-congressional-insider-trading-mostl

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Latest-News-Wires/2011/1114/Is-Congress-picking-stocks-with-insider-information-video

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