The media continues to exaggerate evidence of malfeasance on the part of Roland Burris. As if it would have been criminal for him to do what he didn't do anyway, Monica Davey and Ann Cullotta claim in The New York Times that "Mr. Burris had promised to send a personal check" to Gov. Rod Blagojevich of Illinois. Using almost identical language, Salon's Vincent Rossmeier reaches the same conclusion, as does The Huffington Post's own Carol Felsenthal.
The reporters are reacting to the transcript of a secretly recorded telephone conversation between Burris and Robert Blagojevich, the former governor's brother. What none of the journalists mention is that the transcript also reveals Burris had been avoiding Blagojevich for some time, that Burris indicated he was in no position to cough up bucks because his consulting business was doing so badly he might have to close it, and that Blagojevich nonetheless kept asking him to make a financial contribution to his brother's campaign.
Furthermore, Burris spent most of the conversation resisting Blagojevich's pleas for money before finally making a vague commitment to "do something" for the governor. Considering the entire context, it seems to me that Burris was trying to get the relentless Blagojevich off his back and end the call, more than he was conveying the desire and intent to make an unethical pay to play deal.
Strangely, the Times article characterizes Burris as having been "almost in a crass negotiation with Mr. Blagojevich's brother." Likewise, Felsenthal insists the transcript shows Burris was lying when he said last February that he had "made it very clear to [Blagojevich] that [he] would not contribute, that it would be inappropriate and a major conflict, because [he] had expressed an interest in the Senate seat."
In fact, the transcript is completely consistent with what Burris had previously claimed.
Jeff Norman blogs at CitizenJeff.com.