Online, Post Reporters Stick Up For Pelosi, Say Dem Scandals Are So Very Different
Monday's online chat sessions with Washington Post reporters found some typical Democrat-defending responses. The daily political chat, hosted Monday by Shailagh (that's Shay-la) Murray, included a defense of the woman the Democrats already call "Speaker Pelosi" on the Bill Jefferson scandal:
Arlington, Va.: Do you think Nancy Pelosi will ever understand that investigating House members for "crimes" must come equally hard upon all Democrats as well? Has she done anything to investigate William Jefferson in Lousiana or blocked him from being on the ballot? Did Nancy Pelosi have as much anger in the 1980's when a Republican and a Democrat in Congress treated pages inappropriately? How does Nancy Pelosi feel about Mel Watts, who served time in prison for sex crimes with a minor? Why is he a member of Congress? Sounds like Pelosi is a hypocrite, or do you think that term is too harsh?
Shailagh Murray: I must rise in rare defense of the House Democratic Leader: she went on a tirade against Bill Jefferson. She was genuinely disgusted by the allegations, and was willing to endure pretty intense heat from the Congressional Black Caucus when she led his humiliating public removal from Ways and Means. I don't think it's fair, in this case, to extrapolate how Pelosi or anyone else would have handled the Foley situation. It's unique.
The congressman in question is actually Mel Reynolds of Illinois, not Mel Watt of North Carolina, which we'll revisit shortly. Reynolds resigned before prison. Prison tends to ruin congressional terms. But "Arlington" wasn't satisfied:
Arlington, Va.: You missed my point, why is William Jefferson still running for Congress on the ballot of 2006? If Pelosi was so upset, she would have kicked him off the ballot.
Shailagh Murray: She can't stop anyone from running!
Shailagh was also busy saying that the sex scandal isn't a sex scandal if the underage page enjoyed the sexual attention and did not complain:
Annandale, Va.: I really don't understand the Democratic fuss over Foley. After all, Gerry Studds, way back in the 80s, actually had sex with a 17 year old page. Sure, he was censured (and he did turn his back to his colleagues) since he believed what he did was consensual. He brazened it out, was reelected and all was forgotten.
Shailagh Murray: Remember, this started with a page complaining about Foley. That's a pretty fundamental difference.
An hour later, media reporter Howard Kurtz took the cyber-podium, and he was also asked about Mel Reynolds, with more specifics:
New York City: Howard, thanks for taking our questions.
Do you think that the media is going over-the-top on the Foley coverage? I do. Here's an interesting comparison. The Post (not to pick on your paper - it just has a nice search feature) has had stories on Page A1 for each of the last three days, together with stories on pages A7, B2, A4, B6, A4, B4, and C6. Remember Rep. Mel Reynolds? He was convicted of statutory rape, of a worker on his campaign, twelve years ago. In that case, The Post had a total of THREE stories the week the scandal broke - and they played on pages A5, A3, and A4. None were on the front page.
What are the differences in the cases? Reynolds actually had sex with an underage person, while Foley did not have sex with any of them nor were any actually underage under DC law. Also, Reynolds was charged with child pornography and witness tampering, while there's no evidence that Foley committed any crime yet. Oh, and Reynolds was a Democrat, and Foley is a Republican.
Howard Kurtz: There's a huge difference, and it goes beyond the fact that Foley was hitting on members of the House page program, which brings young people to Washington and promises their families that they will be well cared for. And the difference is the warnings about Foley's questionable conduct that House leaders Dennis Hastert and John Boehner received, and the involvement of House GOP campaign chief Tom Reynolds. If Foley had just been caught sending sleazy IMs to a campaign staffer, or even having sex with a campaign starter, and no other member of Congress knew about it, I believe it would be a two-day story.