News media barely covered Newsweek report on alleged Gonzales cover-up
The news media has paid scant attention to a report in Newsweek magazine's January 31 print edition (which arrived in mailboxes beginning January 24 and was published online January 23) that says attorney general nominee Alberto R. Gonzales may have lied to the Senate Judiciary Committee about his role in helping then-Texas Governor George W. Bush avoid jury duty in a 1996 drunken-driving case. Had Bush not been excused, he would have been forced -- in response to questions asked of prospective jurors -- to disclose his own 1976 drunken-driving arrest and conviction, which was not made public until just before the 2000 election. Yet no newspaper print edition, network news program, or CNN, FOX News, or MSNBC primetime news program mentioned Newsweek's revelations, despite the Senate Judiciary Committee's upcoming vote on Gonzales's nomination.
A Nexis search* of "All News" revealed that just four news outlets -- all online sources -- mentioned investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff's report, titled "Gonzales: Did He Help Bush Keep His DUI Quiet?" Those sources are: White House Bulletin, which is delivered daily by fax, email, and Internet; WashingtonPost.com's "White House Briefing" column by Dan Froomkin; National Journal's online "daily briefing on politics" The Hotline; and Bulletin News Network's Frontrunner, a morning briefing "on how the national media is covering policy and politics."
Isikoff reported that the judge and attorneys present for the 1996 drunken-driving case have disputed Gonzales's written account of the proceedings, which he submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee. They claim that before the case began, Gonzales had requested an off-the-record conference with the judge, asking him, as Isikoff wrote, to "'consider' striking Bush from the jury, making the novel 'conflict of interest' argument that the Texas governor might one day be asked to pardon the defendant." The judge and defense attorney assented. But according to Isikoff, Gonzales did not mention his off-the-record conference when the Judiciary Committee's Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) asked him to provide a detailed account of the case. Isikoff noted that Gonzales adamantly defended his account of the case, quoting a senior White House official as saying, "Judge Gonzales has no recollection of requesting a meeting in chambers."
*Media Matters for America search for (Alberto w/2 Gonzales) and jury and (drunk! w/10 driv!) or DUI after 1/23/05