Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey seemed absolutely shocked and appalled Tuesday afternoon, when MSNBC anchor Tamron Hall kicked off their interview on comprehensive immigration reform by asking him about breaking news from the Associated Press regarding the arrest and deportation order against an intern in the senator's office who is a registered sex offender. According to the report, the arrest was deliberately timed to fall AFTER the November 6 presidential election.
"Do you know anything about this report, senator," Hall asked a visibly annoyed Menendez. "We certainly wouldn't have known through any background checks since he is a minor about any sex offender status," Menendez insisted, "and once it came to our attention, our New Jersey staff director let the young man go from the program." [MP3 audio here; video follows page break]
Hall then pressed Menendez further, "He was arrested December 6th. Do you know when this was brought to the attention of your office?"
"My understanding is it was brought to attention this Monday," Menendez replied.
But, wait a minute, Hall noted, "According to this report, the Homeland Security Department instructed federal agents not to arrest this 18-year-old until after election day."
"We know you were reelected in November, but according to a U.S. official involved in this case, in this AP report, Homeland Security Department was instructed not to arrest him until after Election Day. Do you know anything about a delay in his arrest?" Hall asked.
Menendez said that he didn't, that his staff knew about this on Monday, December 3 but that he learned about it until just before appearing on the NewsNation program. "I assume at some point you want to talk about immigration reform," sneered.
"Obviously this ties into it because if you are fighting for immigration reform and there was an illegal immigrant working in your office unbeknownst to you or not, that does factor into your credibility in the conversation as well," Hall replied, defending the connection between the arrest and the larger issue of immigration reform.
Menendez replied by reasserting that the intern was unpaid. "Let's get clear, when you keep saying working, he's an unpaid college intern, so it's not like he's a staff-paid person," Menendez objected. "It's not like an employee." Menendez also insisted that because the allegations of sexual misconduct stem back to when the intern was a minor, those were sealed records and there was no way Menendez's office could have known about that.
Following Menendez's answer, Hall moved on to deal with the larger immigration reform issue, leaving behind the intern arrest.
MSNBC, as we have demonstrated time and again, is a reliably safe haven from tough questions for liberal Democrats, so kudos to Hall for doing her job and addressing the breaking news, pressing Menendez on the matter, even though he quite obviously did not like being put on the spot.