Houston-area TV news stations covering Rep. Dan Crenshaw’s congressional district are so far ignoring a report from the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general which found that the Republican member of Congress helped VA Secretary Robert Wilkie smear a fellow veteran who reported a sexual assault in a VA facility.
In the fall of 2019, Democratic House aide and Navy veteran Andrea Goldstein reported that she was sexually assaulted at a VA medical center in Washington, D.C.. In a January letter to the chair of the House VA committee, Wilkie called Goldstein’s report “unsubstantiated,” for which he was widely criticized.
Now, as The Washington Post reported last week, a newly released inspector general investigation has found that the “tone Wilkie set with his senior staff and reporters influenced the investigation into the veteran’s claim -- and led to the agency’s failure to improve an often-hostile environment for women at the D.C. Medical Center.” According to the Post, the report found that “instead of focusing on the hospital contractor” who Goldstein said assaulted her, “VA’s senior leaders did the opposite … and embarked on a campaign to discredit” her.
The report also determined Crenshaw, who had served in the same unit as Goldstein, was involved in Wilkie’s campaign to discredit her. On December 10, Newsweek reported:
The 68-page report from the V.A. Office of Inspector General (OIG) stated that three witnesses said Wilkie informed them that Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) gave him information about the female veteran that could erode her credibility. Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, served in the same unit as the female veteran, Andrea Goldstein.
Crenshaw and Wilkie have both claimed that Goldstein has made false or exaggerated sexual assault allegations in the past. The report stated that, according to three witnesses' accounts, Wilkie said Crenshaw relayed information to him about her complaints during active duty.
Two of Wilkie's top deputies—chief of staff Pam Powers and Brooks Tucker, the then-assistant secretary for Congressional and Legislative Affairs—told the OIG that Wilkie made remarks during a daily staff meeting in October 2019 about Goldstein's reputation based on information they thought came from Crenshaw.
In a separate incident, on December 4, 2019, Wilkie told the OIG that Crenshaw approached him at a fundraiser to discuss Goldstein's case, which had since come to light in several media accounts.
Wilkie said that the extent of his conversation with Crenshaw was that the former Navy SEAL said he had served with Goldstein and that no further information was discussed.
However, four minutes after leaving the fundraiser, the OIG report states that Wilkie sent an email to Powers and Tucker, which suggested Crenshaw had relayed damaging information about Goldstein. The email and Crenshaw's alleged involvement was reported by Newsweek last month.
“Ask me in the morning what Congressman Crenshaw said about the Takano staffer whose glamor shot was in The New York Times," Wilkie wrote to Power and Tucker, referring to an op-ed penned by Goldstein.
The connection between Wilkie and Crenshaw was supported by Jim Byrne, the former Deputy Secretary of the V.A. under Wilkie, who alleged in an interview with Newsweek last month that he was fired for refusing to damage the reputation of Goldstein.
Crenshaw has denied speaking with Wilkie about Goldstein, but he also refused to speak with the inspector general during the investigation.
Media outlets serving Crenshaw's congressional district should be covering their representative’s involvement in this scandal, which has caused several veterans groups to demand that Wilkie resign from his post. Crenshaw is likewise facing calls to resign from nearly 500 fellow veterans and the organization VoteVets, and he may face an ethics inquiry in the House.
And while the Houston Chronicle covered Crenshaw’s involvement in this scandal after the release of the inspector general report, Houston’s major corporate TV news stations have so far failed to mention it. A transcript search of the Kinetiq video database for Crenshaw’s name between December 10 -- when the report was released -- and December 15 turned up no news coverage of his reported involvement in smearing Goldstein on the Houston market's ABC, CBS, NBC, or Fox stations.
Voters cannot hold their representatives accountable if their local media outlets are failing to keep them informed.
Media Matters searched the Kinetiq video database in the Houston, Texas, media market -- where Rep. Crenshaw’s district is located -- for “Crenshaw” between December 10, when the Department of Veterans Affairs inspector general report was released, and December 15.
We reviewed search results for local news reports from affiliates of ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox Broadcasting Co. mentioning Crenshaw. No matches for Crenshaw’s name turned up coverage of this scandal during the described time period.