By Kevin Binversie of Media Trackers
For as Russia-obsessed as the mainstream press has become, one would have assumed a Wisconsin-related Russia story would make front page news in the Badger state. Instead, there was hardly a peep from Wisconsin-based media.
The story was the sudden cancellation of a trip by three U.S. Senators to Russia. Leading the planned delegation was Wisconsin’s own Senator Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh), who had hoped the fact-finding mission would allow them to meet with civilian society groups and Russian lawmakers.
Johnson; along with Wyoming’s John Barasso and New Hampshire’s Jeanne Sheehan, had planned to leave for on January 11. Along with the trip to Russia were planned stops in Germany and the Ukraine.
What ended up happening instead was that over the Senate’s Christmas break, Russian foreign officials announced Sheehan would not be allowed to enter the country and denied her a diplomatic visa. Sheehan’s office believes she was black-listed for her outspoken criticism of Russian President Vladimir Putin, continued calls for increased sanctions for Russian cyber-aggression, as well as leading a recent successful effort to have software developed by Russian-based Kaspersky Labs banned from federal government computers.
With the Russians denying Sheehan a visa, both Johnson and Barasso announced they would cancel the trip entirely as a show of solidarity toward their Democratic colleague.
“The decision to deny a visa to a member of our Senate delegation is extremely unfortunate and counterproductive to improving relations between our nations,” Johnson, chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in a statement.
News of the Russia trip’s cancelation was reported by a number of national media outlets in the ensuing days. However, not a single Wisconsin-based media outlet can be found having reported on it or Johnson’s bipartisan action via a Google News search.
Now there are many reasons why there could have been no local coverage, especially when news such as this occurs during a major holiday period. Political reporters may have had vacation in a traditionally slow news week, it might have been missed entirely by those watching the AP newswire.
But then again, what would the coverage had been if Johnson and Barasso continued on with the trip without Sheehan? How many “hair-on-fire” press releases would have come out from the like of One Wisconsin Now or the Democratic Party of Wisconsin on “Ron the Russian?” With the trip cancelled, and absent the likely double standard that we would have seen if the trip had gone on without Sheehan, we instead see total silence from the media on Johnson having the back of a Democratic colleague.