This year's Senate races are the Democrats' to lose in the sense that the GOP is doing nothing to earn them, hoping President Obama's political collapse will have reverse coattail effects.
The "news" networks of ABC, CBS and NBC have largely avoided paying attention to the bad political outlook for Democrats in the 2014. It is amazing. What bigger political story is there this year? They even skip over their own polls revealing Obama's approval ratings have sunk to the point that they almost mirror George W. Bush's marks in 2006, when Democrats took over both houses of Congress.
The bad-news-is-no-news channels struck again with the scandal around appointed Sen. John Walsh of Montana, named earlier this year to replace longtime Sen. Max Baucus. On July 24, The New York Times published a scoop above the fold on its front page accusing Walsh of plagiarizing his final paper at the U.S. Army War College, where he obtained a master's degree.
The Times reported Walsh "took most of a 2007 final paper ... from other sources without proper attribution. Mr. Walsh copies an entire page nearly word for word from a Harvard paper, and each of his six conclusions is copied from a document from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace without attribution." They added the Army War College handbook clearly states that doing this is "academic fraud."
This was The New York Times, not a paper the liberal media would dismiss like The Washington Times. Network coverage? CBS gave it a non-judgmental blip of 31 seconds that morning. ABC and NBC didn't read the paper that morning, apparently. Nor must they have political departments. They filed nothing.
Walsh was one of the brighter hopes for Democrats in the red states, where they hoped to use his Bronze Star and his War College degree to sell him to voters who repeatedly re-elected Baucus. This news was devastating for Democratic hopes to retain their majority.
But the self-imposed ignorance gets worse. Senator Walsh's response was disastrous. He initially told the Times he'd never plagiarized anything, and then clumsily suggested that post-traumatic stress disorder may have played a role in his fraud.
The Montana papers weren't coy about all this, insisting Walsh needed to drop his attempt to be elected this fall. The Billings Gazette editorialized harshly: "Haunted by a serious lapse in academic honesty, Walsh is finished as a U.S. Senate candidate." The Missoulian insisted that Montana Democrats were wasting precious time to replace Walsh "with a more viable candidate."
In response to the local hubbub, Walsh announced on August 7 he would not run for a full term. Surely, now the networks would have to devote a few minutes to this story, right? No. Except for the CBS morning blip, they have remained staunchly silent throughout the whole fiasco.
If Sen. Walsh were an appointed Republican senator, this would be a massive TV story. This is not debatable. We know because they often furiously overreact when the GOP is involved. Just three examples in an endless list: In 2011, these networks overflowed with coverage when Politico claimed presidential candidate Herman Cain had sexually harassed women. They offered 117 stories before they could even offer an accuser that would put her name on the record.
Two years ago, they "flooded the zone" when Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin made unscientific claims about the female body's reaction to "legitimate rape." They offered a massive 96 minutes (and 45 segments) of coverage for this rape gaffe over the first three and a half days. Back in January, these same networks offered 88 minutes of coverage in two days to the claims that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's aides imposed traffic jams in Bergen County.
These networks are not dedicated to offering fair-minded and detached journalism to the voters. They are dedicated to churning out (or blacking out) political scandals based solely on helping their Democratic cronies.
This commentary was co-written by Tim Graham, director of media analysis at the Media Research Center, of which L. Brent Bozell is president, and executive editor of the blog NewsBusters.org.