Wilson repeated allegation that Earle sought to postpone DeLay trial, failed to attribute it to DeLay supporters

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

Fox News correspondent Brian Wilson asserted that the "real question" regarding district attorney Ronnie Earle's decision to appeal the dismissal of a conspiracy charge against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) was whether Earle "wants to win on that point of law or if this is designed to kind of drag out the case against Tom DeLay." But rather than being the "real" question, it is the question raised by one side -- DeLay's supporters.

In a report on Travis County, Texas, District Attorney Ronnie Earle's decision to appeal the dismissal of a conspiracy charge against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), Fox News congressional correspondent Brian Wilson asserted that the "real question" posed by this development was whether Earle "wants to win on that point of law or if this is designed to kind of drag out the case against Tom DeLay." He did not say who was promoting this as the "real" question. In fact, it is DeLay's supporters who have accused Earle of prolonging the case.

Wilson also falsely claimed that Senior District Judge Pat Priest had thrown out "the conspiracy charges against DeLay." But Priest dismissed only one of the two conspiracy offenses included in the October 3 indictment of DeLay. On December 5, the judge threw out the charge that DeLay conspired to violate state election law, but upheld the charges that he conspired to commit money laundering and committed money laundering, as Media Matters for America noted.

On the December 12 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Wilson filed a report on the Supreme Court's decision to consider the constitutionality of the 2003 congressional redistricting in Texas, which DeLay engineered. Following this segment, host Brit Hume inquired about recent news regarding the criminal case against DeLay:

HUME: Brian, there are also new developments in the Tom DeLay criminal case in Texas. What about that?

WILSON: Well, you know, last week the judge hearing the case, Pat Priest, threw out the conspiracy charges against DeLay, left standing the money laundering charges. Now comes word that Travis County Democratic District Attorney Ronnie Earle is going to file an appeal on that decision. It's a real question about whether or not he wants to win on that point of law or if this is designed to kind of drag out the case against Tom DeLay. The thought being that the longer the case is dragged out on Tom DeLay, the more difficult it might be for him to reclaim his leadership post.

While Wilson failed to attribute this "question" to any persons connected with the case, it clearly echoed the DeLay camp's response to Earle's appeal. For example, DeLay's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, called it a "frivolous appeal," and contended, "There's no reason to appeal except to try to postpone the proceedings. That's obviously what he's trying to do." DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden similarly asserted, "The decision to appeal shows that Ronnie Earle is only interested in persecution by prosecution."

But Wilson went even further than DeLay's aides by characterizing the possible "thought" behind Earle's appeal: "[T]he longer the case is dragged out on Tom DeLay, the more difficult it might be for him to reclaim his leadership post." While neither DeGuerin nor Madden directly alleged that the appeal was intended to hinder DeLay's efforts to "reclaim" his post as House majority leader, DeGuerin has previously accused Earle of attempting to "strip" DeLay of his power:

DeGUERIN: Now, Tom DeLay has already been -- had to step down from his majority leadership position, so in effect, the indictment, the faulty indictment had the effect that I think Mr. Earle's office wanted, to strip him of his power. [CNN's The Situation Room, 10/4/05]

Media Matters for America has previously documented other instances in which Wilson's reports have baselessly portrayed Earle as politically motivated (here, here and here).

Posted In
Government, Ethics, The House of Representatives
Stories/Interests
Tom DeLay Scandal
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