In the wake of former House Majority Leader Tom Delay's three-year prison sentence for money laundering and conspiracy charges, Media Matters looks back on the right-wing media's attacks on DeLay's prosecution by Travis County, Texas, district attorney Ronnie Earle. Conservative media have called Earle a "zealot," a "political crackpot," and said that he should be "behind bars."
Krauthammer: "Tom Delay Is Going To Be A Big Mac" For Earle, Who Sees Delay As "A Political Prize." From the September 28, 2005, edition of Fox News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume:
KRAUTHAMMER: As we saw with the distinction between hard and soft money in the federal campaigns, a distinction which was incredibly violated by the Clinton-Gore campaign in 1996 to such an open extent that in the end it became -- the law became a dead letter and nobody ever obeyed it again.
Look, let's begin by stipulating that, as the lawyers like to say, you can indict a ham sandwich and that Ronnie Earle has been after this ham sandwich, Tom DeLay is going to be a Big Mac for him. The real -- I don't want to stretch the analogy, but this is -- the guy has been after him for years, is a political prize.
We also know that in the past he indicted Senator Hutchison and it was a bogus charge, it was dropped. The indictment itself is a political event. It was meant to be a political event. I agree that it looks very thin. Showing that these murky laws were violated intentionally, knowingly by DeLay, who ordered this elaborate scheme, is going to be a high bar unless he has it on videotape. It's hard to say how he would show it. But the political impact is obvious. DeLay had to step down temporarily. [Special Report with Brit Hume, 9/28/2005, via Nexis]
Coulter: "I Mean, It's Terrifying To Have A Criminal Prosecutor, Someone Who Can Put You In Jail, Bringing These Political Prosecutions." From the April 4, 2006, edition of Fox News Network's Hannity and Colmes:
HANNITY: All right, Ann, there is a whole political side to this equation. But when you indict for a nonexistent crime, and then you go grand jury shopping afterwards, and then you already are on record saying you're going to bring this man down, doesn't it look like the criminalization of politics in our day?
COULTER: Absolutely. And you can't imagine a Republican prosecutor doing the same. I think Ronnie Earle was a joke and everyone recognizes that. No one is concerned about that prosecution.
But I also think the political side of this -- I mean, it's terrifying to have a criminal prosecutor, someone who can put you in jail, bringing these political prosecutions. But the political side of this is also something to consider, and that is the way liberals just choose a Republican, an effective Republican, blacken the person's name just by repetition and hysteria. [Hannity and Colmes, 4/4/2006, via Nexis]
Napolitano: "The Republican Leadership Today Called Him [Earle] A Political Crackpot. And There Is A Basis For Calling Him That." From the November 16, 2004 edition of Fox News Channel's, The Big Story with John Gibson:
NAPOLITANO: Tom DeLay's associates, people that have worked for him, and some who still do work for him, have all been indicted by a sort of renegade prosecutor in Texas, who has made it known that Tom DeLay is in his crosshairs. ...
JOHN GIBSON (host): OK, but now tell me about this prosecutor. You said quasi-renegade.
NAPOLITANO: I was being polite when I said quasi-renegade. The Republican leadership today called him a political crackpot. And there is a basis for calling him that. [FOX News Channel, The Big Story with John Gibson, 11/16/04]
Fox News Contributor Barone: Earle Is "A Partisan Democrat Who Has Done Some Really Rotten, Political Prosecuting." From the November 17, 2004, edition of Fox News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume:
BARONE (FOX News Channel contributor and U.S. News and World Report senior writer): "Ordinarily I would agree with the Democrats' point of view on this. This is, you know, changing the rule, lowering the ethical standards. But the fact is what you've got here is a prosecutor -- Travis County prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, a partisan Democrat who has done some really rotten, political prosecuting. ... So this is a rotten prosecutor who -- and I think in those circumstances, it's appropriate." [FOX News Channel, Special Report with Brit Hume, 11/17/04]
Buchanan: "They Ought To Put That Guy, Earle, Behind Bars." From the October 11, 2005, edition of MSNBC's Imus in the Morning:
IMUS: We're talking to Pat Buchanan here on the Imus in the Morning program, 17 till the hour. Even people who are not fans -- we're kind of switching gears here, slightly -- but, even people who aren't fans of Tom DeLay think that this looks a little flimsy, what they have on him, or not?
BUCHANAN: They ought to put that guy, Earle, behind bars. Look, I mean, look what he did. He indicts DeLay, on Friday, so DeLay's lawyers come in on Monday and said, "Ronnie Earle has indicted DeLay for violating, in 2002, a law that wasn't even passed and enacted until 2003" --
BUCHANAN: --and so Earle has got egg all over his face. So, he impanels a grand jury --
IMUS: Over the weekend, I guess, right?
BUCHANAN: --and in five hours they indict him. Well, it's unbelievable.
BUCHANAN: I mean, really. I was talking with a friend of mine in the green room last night, and we were talking about this -- you know, the criminalization of politics is appalling. It used to be good enough that you'd go out there, and you beat the guy, fair and square. And he's out for four years, and you have a good laugh. But, now's it's, uh, it's not satisfactory or if you can't beat him, you put him in prison. [Imus in the Morning, 10/11/2005]
O'Reilly: "He's A Zealot. Earle Is A Zealot. We All Know That." On the September 28 edition of his Fox News show, O'Reilly said of Delay, "Well I want everybody to follow the law. If he broke the law, he should pay the price." He later continued:
O'REILLY: You know I don't think it is a populous story. I tried to do it on the radio today and we had, like, six calls. You know people don't care. They don't understand what he did.
I think that the people who pay attention know this Ronnie Earle. He's the guy who indicted Kay Bailey Hutchison, the senator, and got -- and she was acquitted of tampering with government documents. He's a zealot. Earle is a zealot. We all know that.
Kellyanne was right when she pointed out that he's made inappropriate statements, politically, in his prosecutional forums. And this is tainted, A to Z. That being said, there is definitely a chance he could be convicted, don't you think? [Fox News, The O'Reilly Factor, 9/28/05, via Nexis]