The jury is deliberating over the fate of Sen. Bob Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat accused on charges of corruption and bribery, but most of American TV viewers would be surprised to know it. The major networks on broadcast and cable have spent plenty of time covering every mundane and sordid detail of the Russia investigation, but they haven’t found much space on their airwaves to cover Menendez’s scandal.
According to a review of coverage by Newsbusters’ Mike Ciandella, the big three broadcast networks – CBS, ABC, and NBC – have devoted exactly 0.0 minutes of their nightly news shows to the trial, which has been going on for the last 60+ days. CNN, which as you know spends 24 hours a day, seven days a week pushing their version of news, has found in that time only 36 MINUTES in which to cover the Menendez scandal. And nearly half of that is thanks solely to CNN anchor Jake Tapper.
In his report, Ciandella noted that he wasn’t the only one who had seen the virtual media blackout:
“If I splashed ‘Menendez corruption trial’ on the front page of every paper that led this news cycle, and every news cycle in America, right? Which is the ongoing federal corruption trial of a U.S. senator, Democratic U.S. senator,” former Trump campaign strategist David Urban hypothesized on CNN. “people would have a completely different view of that case.”
Urban was responding after he was confronted on CNN’s The Lead With Jake Tapper with a CNN poll claiming that 65 percent of Americans worry about Trump campaign collusion with Russia.
“I bet if you ask people in America about the Menendez corruption trial – this network’s covered it, I’ve been here – it has not gotten as much attention as this, right?”
Menendez is on trial for receiving a variety of gifts, including luxury jet travel, fancy vacations, and more than $750,000 in campaign donations, from his “friend,” Florida doctor Salomon Melgen. Menendez’s defense attorneys argue that the gifts were not bribes but rather favors between old pals and that Melgen, by virtue of living in Florida, is not one of Menendez’s constituents. Therefore, the senator did not and could not have proposed or advanced legislation favorable to Dr. Melgen. Prosecutors, on the other hand, have said that Menendez tried to pull strings to get his friend out of a multimillion dollar Medicare bill and that he pressured government officials to give visas to several of Melgen’s girlfriends.
We will soon find out if Menendez will be convicted on bribery charges, but a recent story (covered by Fox News, natch) doesn’t give us a lot of faith in the judicial system. According to the report, a juror went to Judge William Walls on the second day of deliberations to ask: Say…what is a senator, by the way?
You’d think this would be the kind of knowledge your average juror in a U.S. federal court trial of a sitting senator would already know, but there you have it.