In a report on House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), Fox News correspondent Brian Wilson presented DeLay's own misleading talking points without rebuttal. Displaying a graphic of "bullet points" taken directly from "an email DeLay sent to his supporters in the Houston area entitled 'What the press isn't telling you,' " Wilson repeated DeLay's claim that he is being targeted by "a left-wing syndicate." But Wilson failed to note that several prominent Republicans and editorials by numerous newspapers that endorsed President Bush in 2004 have also criticized DeLay. Wilson also left unrebutted DeLay's misleading charge that the Texas district attorney investigating contributions to his political action committee is "a liberal, a leftist."
From Wilson's report on the April 19 edition of Special Report with Brit Hume about DeLay's interview with Fox News Radio host Tony Snow:
WILSON: The radio interview followed on the heels of an email DeLay sent to his supporters in the Houston area entitled "What the press isn't telling you." Among the bullet points, DeLay says he has never been found guilty of violating any law, that Democrats and their outside front groups are targeting him. He points out that House ethics committee admonishments of him last year consisted of little more than letters urging him to moderate his conduct.
Here is the image that appeared on-screen during Wilson's report:
Wilson featured the talking points and echoed DeLay's own defenses without noting the well-documented facts that belie those assertions. He aired a clip of the interview in which DeLay claimed he was being targeted by "a left-wing syndicate" and repeated DeLay's contention that "Democrats and their outside front groups are targeting him," but he failed to note that DeLay has been criticized by prominent Republicans, including Newt Gingrich, Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), and Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT). Media outlets clearly not part of any "left-wing syndicate" have also been critical of DeLay, including the Wall Street Journal's editorial page, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly, and several editorials by newspapers that endorsed Bush in 2004. Rather, Wilson simply noted that "DeLay said he is not getting an even break from the media" and aired a clip of DeLay claiming to be the victim of "journalistic activism."
Wilson also aired a segment of the interview in which DeLay suggested that Travis County, Texas, District Attorney Ronnie Earle's investigation is politically motivated, but left that misleading claim unchallenged. In fact, as a March 17, 2004, Houston Chronicle editorial noted: "During his long tenure, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle has prosecuted many more Democratic officials than Republicans. The record does not support allegations that Earle is prone to partisan witch hunts." Earle has indicted three top fund-raisers and eight corporate contributors to DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee. Wilson falsely stated that only two of DeLay's associates have been indicted, then repeated without explanation or closer analysis that "DeLay calls those charges frivolous." Wilson also echoed DeLay's claim that Earle's investigation is an attempt to "criminalize politics" without providing specifics or evidence to support this charge.
Wilson concluded by noting that the Campaign for America's Future, "one of the groups that has been attacking DeLay," called DeLay's email "misleading," adding that "they didn't explain exactly how they thought it was misleading."
Media Matters for America has documented several instances in which Wilson's reports served as unquestioning forums for DeLay's misleading claims:
- Tom DeLay Scandal