On CNN's Reliable Sources, National Review contributor editor David Frum baselessly suggested that Democrats, unlike Republicans, "have the impulse to protect and shield their own when their own are guilty," comparing the Democrats' response to allegations that Rep. William Jefferson accepted bribes with the Republican leadership's handling of the Foley matter to make his point.
While discussing the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), during the October 8 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, host and Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz did not challenge National Review contributing editor David Frum's baseless suggestion that Democrats, unlike Republicans, "have the impulse to protect and shield their own when their own are guilty." As purported evidence of this, Frum compared the Democrats' response to allegations that Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-LA) accepted bribes to help promote business deals in Nigeria with the Republican leadership's handling of the Foley matter, stating: "William Jefferson is still in Congress, after all, and Mark Foley is not." In fact, upon learning of the allegations against Jefferson, House Democrats forced Jefferson to resign his seat on the House Ways and Means Committee while the investigation into his alleged wrongdoings was still ongoing.
By contrast, even after House leaders learned -- months and possibly years ago -- of potential misconduct on the part of Foley toward underage former House pages, he retained his place as co-chairman of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus and his seat on the House Ways and Means Committee. Also, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) accepted a $100,000 contribution from Foley's PAC in the summer of 2006, and the NRCC even reportedly encouraged Foley to run for re-election. Moreover, House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) has made contradictory statements about whether the House leadership played any role in Foley's resignation after the instant messages surfaced, as Media Matters for America has noted.
Also, Kurtz did not point out that Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who has pleaded guilty to corruption charges stemming from a federal investigation into convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, has not relinquished his House seat. Ney, who was up for re-election in November, has withdrawn his candidacy and is to be sentenced in late October.
In late May, reports revealed that Jefferson was under investigation by the FBI for bribery, and, as CBS News reported on May 21, "was caught on videotape accepting $100,000 in $100 bills from an FBI informant whose conversations with the lawmaker also were recorded." According to court documents, the FBI recovered $90,000 from Jefferson's freezer within a week of bribing him. Jefferson has yet to be charged with a crime. In the wake of the scandal, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (CA) first asked Jefferson to resign from his seat on the Ways and Means Committee while he was under investigation. When Jefferson refused, House Democrats voted to remove Jefferson from the committee.
Responding to a question from CNN anchor Tony Harris, on the October 9 edition of CNN Newsroom, about differences in the response to the two scandals, Cook Report senior editor Amy Walter said that the "Republican leadership" has been "very dysfunctional" in its handling of the Foley issue. Walter added: "The fact is, the leadership of the Democratic Party said to Congressman Jefferson that he had to relinquish his post ... on a very important committee."
From the 10 a.m. ET broadcast of the October 9 edition of CNN Newsroom:
HARRIS: Good to talk to you. OK. You know what? I recall when we were talking about Democratic Congressman William Jefferson allegedly having -- what? -- $90,000 in cold hard cash right there in his freezer, and I don't recall hearing a lot of talk about that scandal, forcing Democrats to run for cover. Why will the Foley scandal resonate so much so among Republican voters?
WALTER: Well, let's look at the stories. First, politics is all about timing, and the timing of this scandal couldn't be worse. As you pointed out, we're less than a month away from the election, and it's not the scandal itself or the actions as much of Mark Foley as the reactions from the Republican leadership that's been the bigger problem: the finger-pointing, and who knew what, when, and, really, the focus and the non-stop attention on what looks like a very dysfunctional Republican leadership -- very dysfunctional handling of this issue.
For the Democrats, the Jefferson story was a story for some time. The fact is, the leadership of the Democratic Party said to Congressman Jefferson that he had to relinquish his post --
HARRIS: Yeah. That's right.
WALKER: -- on a very important committee, and so, that sort of got it off the front pages. In this case, the question is just how much more oxygen there is in the room for this story to dominate with just a couple, I'm sorry, just about four weeks left until the election. The more that this story, the more that the focus is on the dysfunction in Congress -- a Congress that, by the way, the American public already thinks is not doing a very good job as it is -- the harder it is for Republicans to get out from under this.
From the October 8 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
FRUM: I think, for sure, it gives an extra impetus, because the Democrats use the story as a way of splitting the Republican coalition. And, I mean, I think we now have this very ironic punch line where Nancy Pelosi is trying to signal in coded language and the kind of dog whistle politics above the air that, vote Democratic is a way to clean up that nest of perverts on Capitol Hill. And, I mean, it's a strange message for a Democrat to run on.
KURTZ: But before you completely go off on the Democrats, David Frum, there was an editorial in the conservative Washington Times days ago that demanded Denny Hastert's resignation at a very early stage here. A number of conservative commentators have piled on -- have criticized Hastert's handling of this. Why?
FRUM: Because the handling of it has been bad. And so, of course, people would pile on. And I think they are genuinely, very genuinely shocked by the story.
And I think what is laudable about conservatives is they do not have the impulse to protect and shield their own when their own are guilty. I mean, William Jefferson is still in Congress, after all, and Mark Foley is not.
KURTZ: Bill Press?
PRESS: Well, first of all, I think that the Republicans here have -- are shielding their own, and they're shielding -- they're shielding -- but they're shielding Dennis Hastert, who knew about this, didn't know the explicit emails, but certainly knew that there was unwelcome or inappropriate activity going on and didn't do anything about it.
KURTZ: But just to bring you back to the press coverage. We've got about half a minute.