The GOP primary in the race to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr. received little to no coverage leading up to the February 26 ballot from the mainstream Chicago media. Since winning the Republican nomination, however, the media have fixated on Republican winner Paul McKinley and his criminal past.
Despite campaigning openly as an “ex-offender” since the beginning of the race, several local Chicago mainstream media outlets have made it their mission to reconvict McKinley on their own terms.
And yet, the voters aren’t having it; in fact, after a particularly vicious series of pieces about McKinley featuring blatant, redundant, and relentless attacks, members of the Chicago Media are now facing a backlash from the public and numerous "new-media outlets."
There is little doubt that if McKinley were a Democrat, the headlines would proclaim a different narrative. Something along the lines of, “McKinley Turns Life Around, Wins Primary,” or “Primary Winner with Troubled Past Proves There is Still Hope for Less Fortunate.”
Local Chicago media outlets, specifically the Tribune’s Bill Ruthhart and WFLD Fox 32 Chicago’s Mike Flannery, however, seem to see it as their role to concentrate solely on McKinley's past instead of his remarkable turnaround story and campaign for office, reconvicting McKinley for crimes he committed over 30 years ago and for which he served his time.
The Tribune’s Bill Ruthhart dug up McKinley’s records from over three decades ago, records so old “it took more than three weeks” to track them down. In recounting what they reveal about the crimes McKinley committed in his teens and early twenties, Ruthhart weaves a story that goes back and forth in time repeatedly.
Ruthhart’s carefully crafted article uses quotes from McKinley today that deceptively creates the impression that after each crime McKinley repented, only to return to a life of crime.
McKinley informed Breitbart News he appealed his sentence all the way to the United States Supreme Court, a fact that he also told Ruthhart. However, Ruthhart disregarded this development, leaving it out of his report when explaining McKinley did successfully get his 50 year sentence reduced to 20.
In reaction, the Chicago Tribune received and published the following letter to the editor this week, which came from Hinsdale, one of Chicago’s wealthiest suburbs:
I'm disgusted with the media, including the Chicago Tribune, for continually posting negative news about 2nd Congressional District candidate Paul McKinley.
They are crucifying him even before all the votes are in. The latest results from the primary election showed that Paul McKinley won the Republican nomination by 23 votes. This was a legitimate primary, and the voters chose him to be their leader.
I realize that McKinley spent 20 years in prison and that he committed some violent crimes in the past. But he was punished and served time for his acts. Now, he's punished again by the press.
There are plenty of criminals on the streets who have committed crimes more serious than McKinley's but have never been caught nor have they served time in prison.
Who do you think is a better servant in public office: a criminal who hasn't been caught and believe me, there are plenty of them), or someone who has paid for his crimes and is now rehabilitated?
Let the voters decide who they want as their leader. McKinley says that he wants to turn his attention on the real gangsters, the ones that don't wear pistols - the machine. Let's give him a chance & see that he does it!
WFLD Fox Chicago’s Mike Flannery also has placed McKinley’s past at the top of his hit list since election day. On more than three occasions, Flannery has reminded his viewers about McKinley’s “life of crime” and “time behind bars.”
Recently, Flannery took his apparent duty to reconvict McKinley a step further, digging up local unofficial Republican Party operative Chris Robling to tell the camera McKinley is not a “real Republican, obviously, and doesn’t represent the party.”
This is the same Chris Robling who has in the past claimed that “Valerie Jarrett would make an outstanding United States senator.” Robling confirmed his assessment of McKinley with Breitbart News, adding to his prior statement about Valerie Jarrett that while he wouldn’t appoint her to the Senate if he was governor, “she has the utmost honesty and integrity, industry and accomplishment.”
In addition, Flannery attacked Breitbart News on a Fox Sunday Morning show, as McKinley's "chief cheerleader," while failing to utter a similar mention regarding the support McKinley's opponent Robin Kelly received from the radical left-wing blog, the Daily Kos, which prompted a profound thanks from Kelly during her victory speech after the primary election.
Flannery has also severely downplayed the story that Robin Kelly was the subject of an ethics investigation for her time campaigning for treasurer while still on the taxpayers' payroll as Chief of Staff to former State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias. Flannery buried the story in another story about Kelly, headlined, "No More Campaigned Debates for Robin Kelly Before Election."
After Breitbart News highlighted Flannery and Fox Chicago's shortcoming, they finally filed a story headlining Kelly's ethics problems, still ultimately downplaying it, by including a quote from Kelly, referring to the investigation as "political silly season," and denying she ever did anything wrong, despite the investigator recommending her discipline for campaigning on the taxpayers' dime.
After Legal Insurrection reported on Flannery’s vicious attempts to reconvict McKinley, readers of the site, disgusted with the reporter’s actions, took it upon themselves to call Fox Chicago and register complaints.
Ruthhart and Flannery aren’t the only critics in the Chicago Media overplaying McKinley’s past. NBC Chicago also published a piece on McKinley calling the Chicago GOP “Clowns, Felons and Neo-Nazis.”
For his part, McKinley has responded in a video deconstructing the media’s assault on him, saying, “This media is trying to reconvict me after I served my time, and been on the streets for over 15 years, the media and the machine would like for me to still be a part of that lifestyle, and how dare me change my life and want to go in a different direction... They are trying to silence me because I am the only voice of dissent” against the corrupt Chicago Machine.
Mark Carter of Chicago’s Broke Party, also an ex-offender, told Breitbart News, “They aren’t just reconvicting Paul McKinley. Each time they attack him, they are re-convicting all ex-offenders.” Carter added, “It’s time we send a message the Chicago Media that we aren’t going to let them get away with this discrimination anymore.”
The zeal with which Flannery, Ruthhart, and other local Chicago media have taken it upon themselves to reconvict McKinley, while at the same time providing cover for his opponent's ethics problems, has led to only one conviction: their own. The public isn’t buying their coverage, and they’re starting to fight back against the media machine.