February 21, 2013

Former New Orleans Mayor Nagin, Arraigned on Bribery Charges, Not ID’d as a Democrat in 500-Word AP Story

At the Associated Press yesterday, Michael Kunzelman managed to write a 500-word story about the arraignment of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin on bribery charges without once mentioning that Nagin is a Democrat.

That’s probably not a “Name That Party” record for “Most Words Used in an AP Story about a Democratic Politician Tainted by Scandal and/or Corruption,” but it’s especially galling, given the mayor’s culpability (along with then-Governor Kathleen Blanco) for failing to ensure that New Orleans was evacuated on a timely basis in anticipation of Hurricane Katrina, and given the national press’s non-stop blaming of President George W. Bush for the death, destruction and mayhem which followed. Excerpts from Kunzelman’s report follow the jump (bolds are mine):


EX-NEW ORLEANS MAYOR PLEADS NOT GUILTY TO BRIBERY

Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges he accepted more than $200,000 in bribes plus free trips and other gratuities in exchange for helping contractors secure millions of dollars in work for the city.

U.S. Magistrate Sally Shushan set Nagin’s bond at $100,000 during his arraignment on charges that include bribery, wire fraud and filing false tax returns. She also set a preliminary trial date of April 29.

The charges against Nagin are the product of a City Hall corruption investigation that already has resulted in guilty pleas by two former city officials and two businessmen and a prison sentence for a former city vendor.

… Nagin was a political novice before he was first elected mayor in 2002, but Hurricane Katrina turned him into a national figure with a reputation for cringe-inducing rhetoric. His popularity steadily waned in the aftermath of the 2005 storm, as the city struggled to recover from the epic flooding unleashed by broken levees.

An indictment last month accuses Nagin, 56, of accepting more than $160,000 in bribes and truckloads of free granite for his family business in exchange for promoting the interests of Frank Fradella, a local businessman. Fradella pleaded guilty in June to conspiracy to commit bribery and has been cooperating with federal authorities.

… From several city contractors, Nagin is accused of accepting free travel and vacation expenses for trips to Hawaii, Chicago, Las Vegas and Jamaica while in office.

As a reminder, the Associated Press’s stylebook says that a reporter should “include party affiliation if readers need it for understanding or are likely to be curious about what it is.” AP routinely flouts this guidance, and when it does, it’s almost invariably by failing to tag a Democrat.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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