Cal Thomas: Former Senator Allen Exonerated of Bogus Charges; Media Yawn

Last week, the Senate Ethics Committee exonerated former Virginia Senator George Allen on charges that he failed to report stock options he earned during the time he served as a director of a biotech company. As Cal Thomas throughly documented in his current column, this determination of innocence has gone little noticed by the mainstream media. The accusations, however, which were made last October during Allen’s heated, and ultimately unsuccessful, reelection campaign, were heavily covered.

As noted by CNSNews.com, the charges, first reported by the AP, were picked up and editorialized in several prominent Virginia papers. The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee even used the claims in an ad for Allen’s Democratic opponent James Webb. (See above picure) Not so coincidentally, Senator Allen ended up losing his pivotal Senate seat by around 8000 votes. So the question is, now that it turns out the media hyped faulty accusations, where does Senator Allen go to get his reputation and his Senate seat back?

In his March 1 column, Cal Thomas commented on the shoddy coverage by the liberal media [emphasis added]:

Last October, the Associated Press ran a story that said Allen had failed to report his CBI stock options and hinted at possible wrongdoing by Allen when he was governor because the company had done business with the state. This was all that Allen's challenger, now Sen. James Webb, and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee headed by New York Sen. Chuck Schumer needed. They prepared an attack ad, alleging that Allen's stock options were worth $1.1 million and were not worthless, as he had claimed. The ad also made the connection between CBI and the state, charging Allen tried to "steer government contracts to a company that paid him in stock options." AP did not report anything about Allen trying to steer government contracts to the state, but Jim Webb "approved this message" anyway.

An analysis of the negative ad by AP political writer Bob Lewis revealed its inaccuracies. One must conclude that, since the information was available to Webb and Schumer, the two deliberately used factual inaccuracies in the negative ad. But why let truth get in the way of an effective election strategy? The damage was done and since the ad fit nicely into the Democrats' theme of "the culture of corruption" in the Republican majority, the desired result was achieved. Allen lost the election by 9,000 votes.

The Allen camp asked for a formal ruling by the Senate Ethics Committee and on Feb. 16, it came. In a letter to Allen, signed by committee chairman Barbara Boxer, California Democrat and committee vice chair John Cornyn, Texas Republican, Allen was exonerated of any wrongdoing: "The committee has determined that your ownership of CBI stock options did not constitute deferred compensation during the relevant reporting periods." Therefore, they said, Allen was not required to amend the reports.

Allen made his share of mistakes during his re-election campaign, but this was not one of them. His opponent and Sen. Schumer, neither of whom has apologized or retracted their accusations, unfairly smeared him.

In commenting on the Senate Ethics Committee letter and the incorrect negative ad that contributed to Allen's defeat, a Richmond Times Dispatch editorial asked a question familiar to many public figures who have been unfairly slimed, "So where does George Allen go to get his reputation back, never mind his job in the Senate?"

Where, indeed? The AP printed a story on Feb. 21 correcting the errors in its earlier story that were used in the Allen attack ad, but it came nearly four months too late.

This saga is important for a number of reasons. First, it cost a good man an important job. Second, it significantly contributed to a change in the balance of power in the Senate. Third, it again exposed an unholy alliance between liberal politicians and the leftist big media who are quick to attack someone whose policies and party they don't like, but rarely correct errors of their own making, or investigate bogus charges when they help the policies and party the media prefer.

CNSNews.com covered how the Democrats seized on the story and quickly cranked out an ad attacking Allen:

Allen's opponent in the campaign, Webb, then released a television advertisement saying Allen had "tried to steer government contracts to a company that paid him in stock options," and that he had "hid those options for years."

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) stated in its campaign ads that the Virginia Republican had "a dark side," was "distracted by scandals" and "failed to report stock options worth over $1 million and intervened for the same company on a federal contract."

Newspapers including the Washington Post, the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk and the Richmond Times-Dispatched also editorialized about the matter and the "serious ethical questions" it raised about Allen.

It only seems fair that outlets such as the "Washington Post," which attacked Allen at every turn, should devote some major coverage to the news of the ex-Senator’s innocence. George Allen and conservatives, however, probably shouldn’t hold their breath.

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org