Right-wing media invent scandals to malign Dems


Right-wing media figures have recently concocted several baseless scandals in an attempt to portray Democrats as corrupt or guilty of wrongdoing. These include the suggestion that the Democratic leadership acted improperly after learning about sexual harassment allegations against Rep. Eric Massa, the baseless accusation that President Obama is "selling judgeships" for health care reform votes, and the false claim that Rep. Pete Stark has an "ethics scandal."

Right-wing baselessly accuses Obama of "selling judgeships" for health care vote

Following Weekly Standard's McCormack, right-wing baselessly speculated that Obama appointed Scott Matheson to buy his brother's vote. Right-wing media figures have run with The Weekly Standard's John McCormack's completely baseless accusation that Obama is buying Rep. Jim Matheson's (D-UT) vote on health care reform by appointing his brother, Scott Matheson, to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. McCormack provided no evidence to support the allegation -- which both Rep. Matheson and the White House have called "absurd" -- and even those pushing the charge acknowledge that Scott Matheson is "plenty qualified for the job."

Rep. Matheson's office and White House have called the smear "ridiculous" and "absurd." Noting that McCormack's "report raises the question but doesn't answer it," Politico's Chris Frates reported that Rep. Matheson's spokeswoman "called the question 'patently ridiculous,' saying there was no deal made between her boss and the president that guranteed [sic] Scott Matheson's nomination in exchange for Rep. Matheson's vote." Frates later noted that a "White House official calls the charge 'absurd.' 'Scott Matheson is a leading law scholar and has served as a law school dean and U.S. Attorney. He's respected across Utah and eminently qualified to serve on the federal bench,' the official said."

Right-wingers spread baseless allegation despite acknowledging that Scott Matheson is "plenty qualified for the job." McCormack's post noted that "Matheson appears to have the credentials to be a judge," and Hot Air's Allahpundit stated that "Scott Matheson's plenty qualified for the job." Nevertheless, they advanced the baseless speculation that Obama is "selling" judgeships for votes on health care reform.

Hatch praised Matheson nomination and said Matheson "is a capable, bright attorney whose experience has prepared him for judicial service." The Associated Press reported on March 3 that "[t]he nomination was also praised by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who reiterated that Matheson's experience has prepared him well for the position":

The nomination was also praised by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, who reiterated that Matheson's experience has prepared him well for the position.

"I'm pleased President Obama has nominated Scott Matheson to fill the vacancy on the 10th Circuit," Hatch said. "I've known Scott a long time, and he is a capable, bright attorney whose experience has prepared him for judicial service. The Matheson family has had a significant impact on Utah and can rightly be proud of Scott's nomination."

Malkin and Hannity falsely claimed Stark has an "ethics scandal"

Hannity and Malkin claim Stark has "his own ethics scandal." During the March 3 edition of his Fox News program, Sean Hannity stated, "The story gets more interesting now, because you've got Rangel's successor, a guy by the name of Congressman Pete Stark, who himself has been investigated for ethics violations." Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin later added, "[H]is own ethics scandal, as you mentioned, regarding a house that he claimed deductions for apparently in Maryland, and then he went and cussed the people who were investigating that as well."

Ethics committee flatly rejected allegations against Stark. In a January 29 report, the House ethics committee flatly rejected allegations that Stark "violated Maryland criminal tax law and ethics rules of the House of Representatives by intentionally filing a false application for a Maryland property tax credit." The ethics committee found that Stark "did not violate House ethics rules. Nor did he run afoul of Maryland's criminal or tax laws."

Ethics committee: Stark did not "seek" tax credit and did not "file a false application." The ethics committee found:

The evidence clearly establishes that Representative Stark did not receive a tax credit as a result of filing an application for the credit. The evidence also establishes that he did not file a false application for the Maryland property tax credit.

Representative Stark did not seek out the Maryland property tax credit. The State of Maryland required every homeowner in Maryland to fill out a form to determine their eligibility for the tax credit.

Therefore, Representative Stark did not violate House ethics rules. Nor did he run afoul of Maryland's criminal or tax laws.

Media baselessly implicate Democratic leadership in Massa allegation

NRO's Lopez: "This could be very bad news for the Dems" because "Hoyer knew." Linking to a Politico report stating that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer "confirmed that the Democratic leadership had been informed of the allegations" that Massa "made unwanted advances toward a junior male staffer," National Review Online's Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote, "Massa-gate? This could be very bad news for the Dems -- Hoyer knew and it seems made some unleader-like presumptions." Lopez was referring to Hoyer's statement that "I've heard of that allegation before. ... And my presumption [is] it's being pursued in the course of business."

Hoyer's office said he ensured that the ethics committee "was immediately involved to determine the facts." Politico reported on March 3 that "several House aides told POLITICO that the House ethics committee has been informed of allegations that the New York Democrat, who is married with two children, made unwanted advances toward a junior male staffer." Politico further reported that Hoyer "confirmed that the Democratic leadership had been informed of the allegations before the news broke" and issued the following statement:

"The week of February 8th, a member of Rep. Massa's staff brought to the attention of Mr. Hoyer's staff allegations of misconduct that had been made against Mr. Massa. Mr. Hoyer's staff immediately informed him of what they had been told. Mr. Hoyer instructed his staff that if Mr. Massa or his staff did not bring the matter to the attention of the bipartisan Ethics Committee within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer would do so. Within 48 hours, Mr. Hoyer received confirmation from both the Ethics Committee staff and Mr. Massa's staff that the Ethics Committee had been contacted and would review the allegations. Mr. Hoyer does not know whether the allegations are true or false, but wanted to ensure that the bipartisan committee charged with overseeing conduct of Members was immediately involved to determine the facts."

Russert baselessly claims Democrats may have "a Mark Foley situation." In a March 3 Twitter post, NBC's Luke Russert linked to the Politico article reporting that "the House ethics committee has been informed of allegations" that Massa "made unwanted advances toward a junior male staffer" -- allegations Massa has reportedly denied. In his post, Russert made the completely baseless assertion that "if true the Dems got a Mark Foley situation." In addition to Foley's inappropriate emails and explicit instant messages to teenage House pages, the Foley scandal also involved the widespread failure of Republican members of Congress and their staffs to appropriately address Foley's behavior. However, there is no evidence that Democrats handled the Massa situation in a manner similar to the Republicans' handling of Foley. As the House ethics committee reported regarding the Foley scandal, "The Investigative Subcommittee finds that few of the individuals who ultimately came to participate in those events handled their roles in the manner that should be expected given the important and sensitive nature of the issues involved."

Specifically, as Media Matters for America has noted, the ethics committee criticized Rep. Rodney Alexander's (R-LA) staff's "refusal" to give Foley emails to a House clerk; found that then-Speaker Dennis Hastert's counsel "showed an inexplicable lack of interest in the e-mails"; found that Hastert was likely told about Foley emails and apparently took no action; found that Rep. John Boehner and then-Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) failed to show "any curiosity regarding" Foley emails; criticized Rep. John Shimkus' (R-IL) handling of the Foley scandal; and criticized then-Rep. Jim Kolbe's (R-AZ) handling of allegations that his former page received a "sexually graphic instant message" from Foley.

As Hot Air blogger Allahpundit noted, "Good thing for the Dems that Hoyer took this seriously; if he'd dithered the way the GOP did with the allegations against Mark Foley, they'd have a raging fire to put out here."

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