Is Politico’s David Rogers playing favorites in debt ceiling coverage?

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
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Read three articles published in three consecutive days, and the conclusion one would draw is clear: It’s the Republican-controlled House of Representatives that is to blame for the debt ceiling negotiation stalemate.

That’s not the view coming from one of the left-leaning talking heads employed at MSNBC. Nor is it something from the New York Times opinion page. Instead, it is coming from Politico, an outlet that claims it has no political leaning. But a closer look indicates otherwise, whether it is intentional or not.

In three separate articles published on July 18, 19 and 20 respectively, Politico reporter David Rogers found fault with congressional Republicans in his reporting on the standoff between the GOP-controlled House of Representatives and the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House. In those stories, he quoted Democrats at a margin of 2-to-1 over Republicans.

In his July 18 report, Rogers was very critical of the Republicans’ efforts in the House of Representatives.

“Indeed, with the Aug. 2 deadline exactly two weeks away, the House GOP is doubling down its bet with 10-year statutory spending caps intended to wring $5.8 trillion in unspecified savings from the government during the next decade — more than twice the $2.4 trillion debt ceiling increase that is allowed,” Rogers wrote. “And in his haste to act, [House Speaker} John] Boehner will bring the so-called Cut, Cap and Balance bill to the floor under exactly the type of procedure he has said he abhors: limited debate and with no real review by any legislative committee.”

Rogers, writing in Politico on July 19, took a curiously critical stance on Republican measures to push a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, despite President Barack Obama continuing to “speak hopefully.”

“Against this background, Obama continues to speak hopefully of progress being made and ‘some narrowing of the issues.’ But thus far, the House GOP remains unyielding on new taxes and is demanding instead deep spending cuts and a constitutional amendment to make it harder to raise revenues in the future,” Rogers wrote.

His July 20 report specifically blamed the GOP in his headline and leaned heavily on Democratic sources, including an unnamed “veteran” Democratic strategist, Democratic Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin and White House press secretary Jay Carney.

“’They are going to torch the House,’ said one veteran Democratic strategist, predicting a steady escalation of political heat on Republicans in the remaining days before the Aug. 2 deadline,” Rogers wrote.

When Rogers was asked by The Daily Caller to comment on his reporting, he downplayed any bias and said he felt he had been fair to Republicans.

“All three stories you cited were shaped by conversations with Republicans,” Rogers wrote in an e-mail. “I talk to Republicans all the time. You seem to be penalizing me here for writing about Cut, Cap and Balance in detail, rather than dismissing it as a ‘symbolic’ vote like many papers. I took it seriously, talked to those who helped write it, sought out Mr. Goodlatte over the weekend and quoted Ryan’s closing.”

Almost immediately after reaching out to Rogers about any perceived bias, the headline from his July 20 story was changed from “House conservatives resist compromise” to “Barack Obama looks for debt-deal endgame.” However, Rogers maintained he had nothing to do with the headline being changed.

“As you know, I have nothing to do with headlines, and if that is what you are judging me [on], you have come to the wrong person,” Rogers wrote.

Rogers isn’t a stranger to leaning on Democrats for sources in his stories. His Politico bio boasts about his association early in his career with former Democratic Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill:

“Much of Rogers’s early education in Congress came from the Massachusetts delegation, which then included Speaker Tip O’Neill and senior members of the House Appropriations Committee, who encouraged him to cover that panel when few other reporters did on a regular basis. His Vietnam experience fed an interest as well in the covert wars of the 1980s, and his reporting disclosed the U.S. mining of Nicaraguan harbors as well as earned him a footnote — though not a movie part — in ‘Charlie Wilson’s War.’”