Accuracy in Media

If the Democrats take over the House of Representatives, Rep. John Conyers, who has talked about impeaching President Bush, becomes chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. But it turns out that Conyers has skeletons in his own closet. And Drew Griffin of CNN has exposed some of them on camera, 60 Minutes-style.

Susan Schmidt, James V. Grimaldi and R. Jeffrey Smith of the Washington Post won a Pulitzer Prize for covering the Jack Abramoff affair, when they were actually being spoon-fed the story by Abramoff’s competitors. Real journalism was on display when Drew Griffin of CNN did the legwork necessary to catch a prominent member of Congress-not just a lobbyist-evading the subject of serious ethical violations, on camera.

Griffin’s story featured a confrontation with Conyers, the second most senior member of Congress, in the hallways of Congress about complaints from his former staffers that they were forced to “run errands and work on political campaigns while they were on his congressional payroll.”  Griffin interviewed some of the staffers.

“I’ve been told not to discuss them [the allegations] because we haven’t examined them,” Conyers told Griffin in a hallway outside a congressional hearing room. “And I have an attorney.” When Griffin, who joined CNN in May 2004, persisted with his questioning, Conyers sputtered, complained, and eventually walked away. It was good TV.

Key aspects of the story were broken by Jonathan E. Kaplan of The Hill on March 1 and by Joel Thurtell and Ruby L. Bailey of the Detroit Free Press on March 2. But seeing Conyers run away from the CNN cameras was a major new development in the case.

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