Name that party: Randy Baldridge
A lurid story involving a disgraced former elected official is all over the local news. Randy Baldridge, who served as a Rogers County, Oklahoma, Commissioner, and then served a term in a federal penitentiary for "conspiracy, fraud and misapplication of funds by a local government official, mail fraud, money laundering, and corrupt persuasion of a person to obstruct a federal investigation." Baldridge was arrested Tuesday on a complaint of "harboring an endangered runaway, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, distribution of a controlled dangerous substance to a minor, possession of a controlled dangerous substance within 1,000 feet of a school and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia" according to the Tulsa World.
The Tulsa World's story had an odd omission, considering that this was a story about a disgraced former elected official. The story didn't mention the party affiliation of the federal felon and alleged corrupter of youth. In light of that omission, the cutline for the file photo of Baldridge is especially odd:
In this photo from 2006, Randy Baldridge, who was under federal indictiment at the time for mail fraud for conspiracy, money laundering and mail fraud, looks around a courtroom at the Rogers County Courthouse during a recount of votes for his District 2 Rogers County commissioner seat. Republican candidate Kirt Thacker of Inola had defeated Baldridge with 4,022 votes to 4,014. Tulsa World file
So the only party label you will see in the story is "Republican." If you're scanning the article quickly, the notion that this convicted sleazeball (NOTE: my opinion, based on news reports), accused of even more sleazy behavior, is a typical hypocritical Rethuglican might attach itself to your brain.
Now, if you read more carefully, you might deduce that because he was beaten by a Republican, Baldridge himself must be a Democrat. But, wait! The article doesn't say Baldridge lost a general election; perhaps he was a Republican defeated by another Republican in a primary.
Thanks to the comprehensive election result archive on the website of Rogers County Election Board, I can confirm that former commissioner Randy Baldridge ran for county assessor as a Democrat in 1998, was elected County Commissioner as a Democrat in 2002 and, as the 2006 Democratic nominee, was narrowly defeated in the general election.
Stories about the Baldridge arrest by KOTV News on 6, KOKI Fox 23, and the Claremore Daily Progress also neglected to mention Baldridge's party affiliation, but all three sources mention another detail that the Tulsa World omitted: The runaways Baldridge is alleged to have harbored were all boys.
Tulsa police say a witness has accused Baldridge of picking up runaway boys and giving them drugs, sometimes in exchange for sexual favors.
Someone else told police that Baldridge had given him methamphetamine and he later woke up naked in a field.
When deputies went to the residence in Tiawah they located Baldridge and a 16-year-old male who was a runaway from Tulsa County.
Walton said there were indications that Baldridge had been harboring teenage boys on the run not only from Tulsa but in the Rogers County area for some time.
Baldridge's residence is located less than 200 feet from Tiawah Elementary School.
This might be unremarkable, but there seems to be a pattern of mainstream media selectively avoiding mention of party affiliation when the sleazy subject of a lurid story is a Democratic elected official, emphasizing it when the accused slimebucket is a Republican. It can seem that the mainstream media wants to avoid discrediting its preferred political party. I have to wonder if the omission of the sex of the alleged victims (and the implied sexual bent of the alleged perpetrator) was similarly motivated by a desire to avoid any negative associations with a group favored by the media.
Some examples of "name-that-party" stories: Here are mainstream media stories ignoring the Democratic affiliation of corrupt former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. Here's a long list of "name that party" omissions, highlighting the mainstream media's omission of the Democratic affiliation of the corrupt municipal officials of Bell, California. Lawhawk has a running category on his blog devoted to curious omissions of party affiliation, and so does Newsbusters. Michelle Malkin, in 2008, noted five sex scandals in which the Democratic party affiliation of the perps were rarely noted, while at the same time, Republicans were being attacked for a "culture of corruption." And Ace deconstructs the mainstream media's rationalization of this selective reporting of party affiliation here.
More name-that-party examples of politicians connected with scandal: Pennsylvania congressman John Murtha, former San Diego mayor Maureen O'Connor, Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, San Diego mayor Bob Filner.
Give the readers enough credit to decide whether an alleged perp's party affiliation is relevant or not to the story. If the perp is a politician, party affiliation is a relevant detail.
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