Media Matters

Investigating Brian Ross

Though they went out of their way to help victims of Gustav, ABC's ace reporter still found convention Republicans guilty of Katrina-like crimes.

By 9.5.08

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It's no secret. The first priority of national political convention attendees is to nominate their presidential candidate. The second is to party hardy. While delegates swarmed St. Paul, excited to nominate their ticket (especially with the addition of Sarah Palin), between Monday morning and Thursday evening when Senator McCain was officially nominated, there were as many convention-related parties to attend as there was political business to facilitate. Many delegates, elected officials, and lobbyists spent their evenings listening to speakers and watching spiffy video montages, but afterward headed from the convention hall to parties around the Twin Cities, eager to fulfill the late-night mantra of many attendees: at conventions, there are friends to make, networking to do, and parties to attend.

This year though, with the sudden appearance of Hurricane Gustav, McCain asked that Monday's convention proceedings be cut down to the bare minimum. In obedience to their would-be commander-in-chief, convention officials ended the convention, business complete, within a few hours. On Tuesday, the full schedule of convention events resumed as planned.

Beginning Monday night, though, and through the rest of the week, lobbyists and representatives from dozens of national associations and reputable companies like the National Rifle Association and Lockheed Martin, among others, hosted parties across the region to celebrate the convention.

It would be the first night of a week of partying, but given that Hurricane Gustav had just slammed the shores of Louisiana, some scolds didn't feel it was right for Republicans to have a good time, amid a pending disaster. On Tuesday morning, Good Morning America aired a segment by reporter Brian Ross, from ABC News' "The Money Trail," about the parties that took place the night before. With gusto, Ross chased down members of Congress, lobbyists, and delegates enjoying the company of friends and fellow coworkers to ask them, with obvious relish, how they could "wine and dine" while residents of New Orleans were fleeing Hurricane Gustav. He seemed thrilled when a member of the Republican National Committee refused to speak to him and disappointed when some of the folks he interviewed simply told him they were praying for the hurricane victims and were sorry about what happened.

Indeed, despite Ross's obvious attempt to discredit Republican activists, most news outlets covered the bigger story of the day. Though the convention program was cut short leaving a gaping hole in the schedule, not all Republicans took off to party. Instead, fundraising efforts replaced the cavity of cancellations and attendees asked generous people to pledge their money to help victims of Hurricane Gustav.

Ross didn't acknowledge in the piece -- nor did he probably realize -- that at least one of the gentlemen he spoke to at the party is a prominent Minnesota businessman who publicly said several Minnesota companies had come to him offering to give any help they can to Gustav victims.

Though Ross asked a legitimate question of Republicans, he did so in a way that seemed hell-bent on painting the partying as an outright display of negligence. Had Gustav occurred a few days earlier, would the same disapproval been issued to Democratic delegates? What about your average Democrat wandering the streets of St. Paul? Were they put to the same litmus test?

Ross demonstrated, in one short piece, the subliminal, obsessive view of many Democrats and members of the liberal media, mainstream or otherwise. Since George W. Bush was at the helm during Hurricane Katrina and the much-needed aid in the aftermath was less than stellar, Republicans as a whole bear the responsibility for it and the results of any other future natural disaster. Behind the lights of his glaring camera and through his trenchant questions, you could almost hear Ross's bias like a booming voiceover: just like Republicans, those uncaring people; totally heedless of others' suffering.

Never mind the fact that the parties were paid for months ago; that convention activities were shortened as requested and resumed when appropriate. Never mind the time and effort Republicans spent raising money on behalf of people, many of whom were not yet victims of Gustav. Ross and like-minded members of the media wouldn't know the truth if it hit them like a hurricane.

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About the Author

Nicole Russell writes from Northern Virginia.