Outrage Building Around ABC's Speaker Hastert 'In The Mix' Scandal Story
On Wednesday night's "World News Tonight," ABC reporter Brian Ross claimed House Speaker Dennis Hastert was under investigation by the Justice Department in relation to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. In response, the Justice Department quickly put out a statement saying Hastert was not under investigation. This morning, MRC's Brian Boyd found ABC's "Good Morning America" wasn't backing down an inch, as Brian Ross reported:
"Despite flat and repeated denials from the Department of Justice, federal law enforcement officials insist to ABC News the FBI investigation of Capitol Hill corruption has widened to include potentially Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Officials describe the 64 year old Illinois Republican as very much in the mix of the corruption investigation, something the Speaker told ABC News he was unaware of."
This could turn out to be a very illustrative contrast between off-the-record anonymous leaks and on-the-record public denials. Is ABC or Brian Ross so perfect and unassailably objective that we can believe their anonymous sources more than the government here? Or can they occasionally display an overactive and perhaps ideological sense of public corruption at times? (Scalia's tennis, anyone?)
Over at NRO's Media Blog, Stephen Spruiell noted via Drudge that the Hastert team is growing angry, sending this letter to ABC News:
Dear Mr. Westin, Stephanopoulos, and Mr. Ross:
At 7:25 p.m., the Statement of the Department of Justice confirmed:
“Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department.”
At 10:21 p.m., you wrote:
“Whether they like it or not, members of Congress, including Hastert, are under investigation,” one federal official said tonight.”
This statement is false, and your republication of it after actual knowledge of its falsity constitutes libel and defamation. ABC News’ continued publication of this false information, after having actual knowledge of its falsity, evidences a specific and malicious intent to injure and damage Speaker Hastert’s reputation by continued repetition of a known falsehood.
We will take any and all actions necessary to rectify the harm ABC has caused and to hold those at ABC responsible for their conduct.
Please advise regarding who will accept service of process to remedy this intentional falsehood.
Very truly yours,
J. Randolph Evans
Stefan C. Passantino
Counsel to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert
ABC News maintained its anonymous "federal law enforcement official maintains that Hastert is "very much in the mix," even if he is not considered a formal "subject" or "target" of the government investigation. Spruiell scolded:
How could somebody be "in the mix" without being "considered a formal 'subject' or 'target' of the investigation? This is nonsense! "In the mix" is a phrase that is utterly without meaning in a legal context. The Department of Justice is not a bakery, Alberto Gonzales is not a bartender, and Dennis Hastert is not an ingredient.