Blitzer allowed DeLay to attack Clinton's "character"


On the March 22 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer allowed former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) to assert that former President Bill Clinton "is character-challenged" because "[a]nybody that cheats at golf -- it tells you a lot about his character." Blitzer did not note that DeLay is himself currently under indictment in Texas on money laundering and conspiracy charges relating to a campaign finance probe and that two of DeLay's former staffers, press secretary Michael Scanlon and chief of staff Tony C. Rudy, have pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

During DeLay's appearance, Blitzer asserted that "people have already commented you retreated, you surrendered when you decided to give up your job as the House majority leader," without explaining that DeLay's resignation was a result of a Republican caucus rule that disallowed members under indictment from serving in congressional leadership. In November 2004, DeLay encouraged his Republican colleagues to change that rule to protect his leadership position, which they did. But the caucus reversed the change in January 2005 in the face of negative publicity and party opposition. Given DeLay's efforts to protect his position, Blitzer's characterization of DeLay as having "decided to give up" the majority leader post is misleading.

Blitzer is not the first in recent coverage to ignore DeLay's indictment. As Media Matters for America documented, numerous other national news programs have recently hosted DeLay but failed to address his legal problems.

From the March 22 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

BLITZER: Lest there be no doubt, you don't only go over -- after your fellow conservatives. You have some harsh words for liberals and for Democrats, including Bill Clinton: "The truth is that Bill Clinton was slimy ... Rumors of his vile language," you write, "ill treatment of workers and general slovenliness arose from the stewards on Air Force One, from the staff at Camp David, and from White House personnel." You don't like this guy at all, do you?

DeLAY: It's not a matter of liking him; it's a matter of pointing out that he is character-challenged. We all know that. Anybody that cheats at golf -- it tells you a lot about his character.

BLITZER: Is it -- is it your sense that he will be a major player if his wife, Senator Clinton, becomes president of the United States?

DeLAY: No doubt about it. Listen, they have -- the Democrats and the Clintons have put together the most powerful political coalition that I've ever witnessed in my career. They've taken five to six years to put this coalition together -- the Podestas, the Ickeses, the Halperins, the Blumenthals. And that coalition is Hillary's. If the conservatives don't get their act together, Hillary Clinton, in my opinion, will be the next president.

BLITZER: The book is entitled No Retreat, No Surrender. But a lot of people have already commented you retreated, you surrendered when you decided to give up your job as the House majority leader.

DeLAY: Well, I didn't see it that way. I see it as fighting in a different arena. When I decided to resign, I knew I had to do two things: push the conservative cause and support Israel. And I knew that if I got re-elected, I'd be -- I'd just be a rank-and-file member. I couldn't be a leader.

Wolf Blitzer, Tom DeLay
The Situation Room
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