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The ConWeb's Favorite Convicted Felon

James Traficant's crimes get downplayed in favor of a fond farewell.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 8/7/2002

With its continual whining that the Clintons were never charged with anything despite $70 million-plus worth of investigations conducted by arguably partisan prosecutors, you'd think the ConWeb would be happy that a politician, and a registered Democrat at that, was found guilty of a crime.

But, like a lot of other things on the ConWeb that defy common sense, you'd be wrong. Much of the ConWeb gave Ohio Rep. James Traficant the benefit of the doubt even though he was convicted of multiple crimes of bribery, tax evasion and racketeering.

Why? Mainly because he, like the ConWeb, share much of the same Clinton-hating agenda. Among other things, he once accused former Attorney General Janet Reno of treason, something that always goes over big with the ConWeb.

Leading the way, not surprisingly, was NewsMax. "Was Rep. Traficant Railroaded?" asks the headline of a July 19 NewsMax story by Wes Vernon, who swallows Traficant's line that the government has a vendetta against him.

"No one can know for certain whether Traficant has in fact been nailed on false charges," Vernon writes. He also goes on to note later that "Sending a congressman or senator to jail can be a feather in the cap of any prosecutor or law enforcement officer."

The same day, NewsMax ran an article in which "America's No. 1 talk radio host, Rush Limbaugh" urged Rep. Traficant, to deliver a "farewell exposé" on his fellow Democrats before the vote to expel him from the House. This was followed Aug. 1 by another Limbaugh show of support, in which he hoped Traificant would win the House race he is now conducting from jail.

NewsMax has also devoted space to seemingly every goofball rant Traficant has delivered of late, like a July 27 piece in which he delcares on Sean Hannity's radio show that ""The Cafaro family worked with [Sen. Robert] Torricelli and Sen. Ed Kennedy to make sure I got indicted."

And, of course, it wouldn't be NewsMax if it didn't try to equivocate Traficant's very real crimes with the alleged crimes of the Clinton administration (which, as noted earlier, conservative prosecutors like Kenneth Starr couldn't find enough evidence of to file charges).

"In the end, what did the Ohio Democrat in were his controversial stands on FBI and IRS abuses, his ongoing complaints about cases like the crash of TWA 800 and his charge that former Attorney General Janet Reno had committed 'treason' by failing to seriously investigate Chinagate," complains a July 24 piece, blaming lack of prosecutorial will to charge a Clinton with anything.

Perhaps NewsMax wants one of those prosecutors who went after Traficant -- you know, the ones for whom "sending a congressman or senator to jail can be a feather in the cap." Just like NewsMax to believe only liberals can be guilty of prosecutorial abuse.

An Aug. 1 NewsMax piece on the interesting revelation that Traficant's odd hairstyle is actually an odd toupee has a surprisingly harsh tone, however. The story notes that "Fox News Channel tonight ran a photo illustration of what Traficant might look like bald. The resemblance to Austin Powers' nemesis Dr. Evil was definitely there." That's something you'd expect NewsMax to say about Bill Clinton, not the guy they've been promoting lo these many years.

Over at, the coverage has been only slightly less fawning, at least for a convicted felon, and certainly much better than the Clintons. Writer Susan Jones equivocated July 19: "I respect the rule of law, and I don't buy the conspiracy theories that roll so trippingly off Traficant's tongue. But still, I'll be sorry to see him go." And a July 22 piece by conservative guru Paul Weyrich, long a fan of Traficant, downplays the crimes in favor of attacking the House for being no better they the guy they were tossing out.

"Oh how pious they look, those judges of Congressman Jim Traficant," Weyrich writes. "Traficant is rude, unkempt, threatening and politically incorrect. Too bad it isn't remembered that for a couple of decades he told the truth." Weyrich once opined that Bill Clinton being impeached for alleged perjury was "for (conservatives), the equivalent of Al Capone getting caught on income tax charges"; he now has no interest in judging Traficant because "I didn't sit through the trial so I have no idea what kind of a case the government had against him."

While CNS' news coverage of Traficant has been generally thorough, it also had a pro-Traficant slant. His conspiratorial allegations led two stories about his House Ethics Committee hearing, as the headlines indicate: One read, "Witnesses Against Traficant 'Lied Through Their Teeth'"; the other, "Congressman Says Justice Dept. Was 'After Jim Traficant'." And the story of Traficant's final remarks before the committee is headlined, "Traficant Ethics Testimony Ends with an Expected Roar."

CNS also ran a story July 24 that included an unreliable online poll declaring Traficant the leader in his race for a House seat.

(At even-more-partisan Media Research Center, CNS' sister organization, they're reduced to squealing whenever the network news fails to identify Traficant as a Democrat, even though the guy voted for Republican Dennis Hastert as House speaker and was a frequent Clinton critic.)

WorldNetDaily, for its part, hasn't done much with Traficant aside from an Aug. 2 piece on the hypocrisy of it all written, surprisingly, by Ellen Ratner, the closest thing to a liberal WND has.

What we have here is more classic ConWeb hypocrisy, in which the deference provided to Traficant has never been offered to Clinton. The "vast right-wing conspiracy" is ridiculed by the ConWeb, but Traficant's conspiracy allegations get respectul play. The unveiling of the sordid lives of politicians accusing Clinton of adultery was denounced as "the politics of personal destruction," but the ConWeb's complaints about the ethics of those voting Traficant out of the House are presented as serious commentary. They demand "justice" for the alleged misdeeds of the Clintons (ignoring, we note once more, that prosecutors like Kenneth Starr couldn't find enough evidence to file charges), but they have problems accepting a jury verdict against one of their own.

Like we said: classic ConWeb hypocrisy.

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