For Immediate Release: Keith Appell (703) 683-5004 - Thursday, May 20, 1999
Vol. 3, No. 19
Gore Names Ex-Congressman Who Resigned Over Ethics To Head Campaign, But Reporters Go Soft
Is Tony Coelho Still Immune from Scrutiny?
The Gore campaign drew little media attention with their May 11 announcement of a new
campaign chairman: ex-Rep. Tony Coelho, a media darling before he resigned in 1989. The
Washington Post found Coelho failed to report on his financial disclosure forms a
$50,000 loan from S&L executive Thomas Spiegel to buy $100,000 in junk bonds from
Drexel Burnham Lambert. As head of the Democrats' House campaign committee, Coelho
specialized in soliciting corrupt S&L barons. CNN reporter Brooks Jackson's book Honest
Graft noted Coelho had free use of the yacht of top S&L crook Don Dixon with free
food and drinks to entertain contributors.
Try to imagine how the
network news would cover a politician who resigned rather than face ethics probes by the
House or the media if they were named to head a GOP campaign. Or if they named one of the
top check-bouncers of the House bank (Coelho made the Top 22 with almost $300,000 in hot
checks). A non-story? But the Coelho news did not merit an evening or morning news story
on ABC, CBS, or NBC, although it did appear on CNN and MSNBC.
Coelho's appointment drew little to no ethical scrutiny on CNN's Inside Politics
on May 11. Bruce Morton's profile glossed over it: "In Congress, Tony Coelho rose
like a rocket...But reports surfaced he had failed to disclose the purchase of some junk
bonds, and in 1989 perhaps mindful of the scandal which had dogged Speaker Jim Wright, he
resigned....Coelho was never formally accused of anything improper."
In a discussion with anchor Bernard Shaw, White House reporter John King said the Gore
camp wanted to send a signal they were getting organized: "Not a sense of panic, but
certainly a sense of urgency, that they need to bring in what one senior official told me
a short time ago was 'an adult' to run the campaign," to referee staff disputes. King
repeated the line three days later on the same show: "One of the reasons they have
brought in Tony Coelho is to have a so-called adult in the room."
The news magazines weren't much better:
Time barely touched on Coelho ("an affable and
genu- inely scandalous
party veteran") in Michael Duffy's breathless tribute to Tipper's big role in the
U.S. News & World Report's "Washington Whispers"
briefly mentioned it: "New Gore campaign honcho Tony Coelho is shaking up the veep's
crowd with his maverick but winning style."
In Newsweek, Howard Fineman broached the subject several pages into his
sympathetic cover story on Al and Tipper: "Coelho is a warm-hearted elbow-grabber
widely liked in Washington, but his appointment nonetheless has the potential to be
problematic....Coelho himself is an insider's insider who left the Hill a decade ago
rather than face an ethics inquiry over a bank loan he'd gotten from a beleaguered savings
and loan. A Justice Department probe resulted in a clean bill, but Coelho is still
remembered in Washington for his role in assembling a very state-of-the-art Democratic
money-raising machine in the '80s. That makes him an odd choice for a candidate whose
worst moments as veep have come in answer to questions about fund-raising."
echoed that on MSNBC's The News with Brian Williams.)
Reagan aides (for example, Edwin
Meese) also received "clean bills" in
official probes ten years ago, but that's not how reporters spun it. Fineman's bias has
lessened since he mourned in the June 5, 1989 Newsweek: "Coelho is the most
dramatic victim yet in the Age of Accusation that now dominates American politics." A
week later, the magazine's "Conventional Wisdom Watch" gave Coelho an up arrow:
"Martyr to the cause of decency." How can the media just pick up the praise
where they left off? -- Tim Graham
L. Brent Bozell III, Publisher; Brent Baker, Tim Graham, Editors;
Jessica Anderson, Brian Boyd, Geoffrey
Dickens, Mark Drake, Paul Smith, Brad
Wilmouth, Media Analysts; Kristina Sewell, Research
Associate. For the latest liberal media bias, read the
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