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On the October 13 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry baselessly asserted that the ongoing legal battle between former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Travis County, Texas, district attorney Ronnie Earle is "really just politics back-and-forth." In his comments, Henry was repeating the unfounded claim by DeLay and his legal team that Earle's probe into DeLay's alleged violations of Texas campaign finance and money laundering laws is politically motivated.
Following a report by Henry on the DeLay story, CNN anchor Tom Foreman asked Henry whether the newest developments in the case simply represent political wrangling or instead indicate that Earle's evidence against DeLay is growing. Henry unequivocally responded that the "back-and-forth" that has recently taken place "is really just politics." He went on to claim that "this case mostly is about politics, if you listen to the DeLay camp in particular." He later concluded, "I don't want to minimize the legal part of it, but clearly most of this is political."
Indeed, "the DeLay camp" has consistently attempted to frame Earle's investigation as a political matter and repeatedly accused Earle of partisan motivations. In response to his initial indictment on conspiracy charges and his subsequent indictment for money laundering, DeLay referred to Earle as an "unabashed partisan zealot" and the investigation as "so political" and a "political witch hunt." DeLay even alleged that Earle had been working in conjunction with the Democratic Party leadership, although he provided no evidence to support this claim.
Although Earle is a Democrat, DeLay's characterization of him as a "partisan zealot" is undermined by his record as a district attorney. Of the 15 previous instances in which Earle has won an indictment against a government official, 12 involved charges against Democrats.
This is not the first time that Henry has promoted DeLay's attempts to discredit Earle as politically motivated. In an October 7, 2004, appearance on CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, Henry highlighted Earle's party identification and history of investigating Republican officials while ignoring his record of prosecuting Democrats.
From the October 13 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
FOREMAN: Ed, is this just a back-and-forth that's going on politically on this thing? Or is there a sense that there is a preponderance of weight piling up against Mr. DeLay?
HENRY: A lot of the latest volleying we've seen, I think you've put your finger on it, is really just politics back-and-forth. Both sides trying to make their case. Ronnie Earle trying to pile on against Tom DeLay here, just as the DeLay camp is trying to pile on evidence that they believe that, in fact, there's been misconduct. But basically, neither side has moved the ball forward legally -- in any legal sense -- since those two indictments were handed up over the last week or two. And most of the damage has not been legal so far, it's been political, Tom DeLay having to step down from his post as majority leader. That's why this case mostly is about politics, if you listen to the DeLay camp in particular.
But we have to wait and see where this all goes because there could be major legal ramifications. Obviously, that second indictment on charges of money laundering that came down, that could result, ultimately, in a long prison sentence if it were ever -- if Tom DeLay were ever convicted. We're far, far from that. The DeLay camp still confident all of this is going to be tossed out. I don't want to minimize the legal part of it, but clearly most of this is political.
FOREMAN: Ed Henry, thank you very much.