Just two days into the official race for former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.’s seat (IL-2), some of the Chicago media are inexplicably able to declare which party will win—the Democrats—and telling their viewers the same. This is despite the fact that five Republicans have filed to run in addition to 17 Democrats, and the even more confounding fact that Election Day is still four months away.
The district, one of those newly carved out as a result of the Democratic-controlled redistricting, is oddly constructed. Only about 20 to 25% of the district’s area lies within the city of Chicago, and it extends into vast rural areas with parts of strong conservative support.
Nevertheless, Chicago media personnel have chosen to cover the race selectively, providing information on only those they deem frontrunners: Democrats Debbie Halvorson, Alderman Anthony Beale and State Rep. Toi Hutchinson. In doing so, the Chicago media has shut out the five black candidates who are running in the Republican primary from receiving similar media attention.
For example, this past Saturday night, ABC 7 Chicago's Michelle Gallardo filed a report on a candidate forum in Hopkins Park, IL, where she inaccurately labeled the event as a “Democratic forum,” despite the fact that it was organized by both a Republican and a Democrat, and featured Republican candidate Paul McKinley as one of its panelists.
In fact, ABC’s Gallard neglected to use, even once, the word “Republican” in her coverage, in which she declared:
The primary will take place on February 26. The general election will be little more than a month later, on April 9. But again, at this point it really is any body's race. The only thing we can predict with some certainty is that, in the end, whoever wins the congressional seat will most likely be a Democrat.
Now, Gallardo may not be faulted for failing to accurately cover the event, as she did not actually attend the forum—a cameraman and producer were on location instead. If she had, she would have witnessed not only the participation of a Republican, but warm reception on the part of the crowd to his views on helping the second district.
However, Gallardo’s stand-ins did conduct an on-camera interview with Republican candidate Paul McKinley, which makes it more perplexing as to how Gallardo managed to rebrand the event.
McKinley is no stranger to Chicago’s ABC 7; he has in the past accused ABC 7 of racism and being a puppet for Rahm Emanuel and the “liberal-Chicago Machine.”
Gallardo hasn’t been the only one to exercise editorial discretion in her reports on the race. CBS 2 Chicago's Jay Levine instructed his viewers as to the likelihood of a Democratic win in a report filed Monday just following the deadline for candidates to file their petitions. In it, Levine went into specifics about the Democratic field of candidates and failed to mention any of the Republicans vying for Jesse Jackson, Jr’s congressional seat by name. He did manage to insert the same conclusion that only a Democrat will win, saying:
There were also five Republicans who filed nominating petitions by Monday’s 5 p.m. deadline, but in the heavily Democratic district, it’ll be the shootout among the 17 Democrats from which the next congressman will emerge in the 2nd District.
I followed up with Levine to inquire as to any polling CBS may have done to warrant providing his viewers with such a conclusion. Levine responded:
The quote you referred to was mistakenly pulled from my report that was still being edited before the final version was ready for air.
I’m sure your stories for Breitbart go through many revisions and edits before they are finalized. In this case, the entire paragraph you refer to was removed. It should not have appeared online.
I am copying our web editor so that he will correct the online version and also make sure that in the future, online stories reflect the final version rather than work in progress.
Given that Levine failed to confirm any polling to back up his claim, and in fact concedes that the entire paragraph should have been removed, we are left with another inaccurate, biased, and underreported story, which neglected to provide any information to voters about the Republican primary. At the time of this posting, Levine’s report was modified, leaving one sentence in tact regarding the entrance of five republicans in the race.
NBC 5 Chicago’s coverage of the second district race this Monday during the candidate filing period failed to mention any Republicans in the race. At the time at which they filed their report, three of the five Republicans had already filed.
CBS, ABC, and NBC had sources for the five Republican candidates: Breitbart News began reporting on Christmas Eve that Republicans were eyeing the seat.
Given what we know about this newly formed district and its demographics, the race is far from a given, as the local media would have their viewers think. Rather, when the primary is over and there is one Republican and one Democrat, this race could become the one to watch.