FOX's Wilson miscast DeLay aides' prosecutor as a partisan DemocratSeptember 22, 2004 2:08 PM EDT ››› GABE WILDAU
FOX News Channel correspondent Brian Wilson echoed allegations by U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) that the September 21 indictments of three top aides to DeLay by Ronnie Earle, district attorney in Travis County, Texas, were politically motivated. But evidence shows otherwise.
"This has been a dragged out, 500-day investigation and you do the political math," DeLay said, according to a September 21 Associated Press report. On the September 21 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume, Wilson reported that "some say" Earle is "the most partisan Democrat in the state of Texas" and that "a good DA [district attorney] can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich":
WILSON: Now, Ronnie Earle, the DA [district attorney] who conducted this probe, is one of the most powerful, some say the most partisan Democrat in the state of Texas. As district attorney of Travis County [Texas], he can investigate anything that pertains to the state capital. It is often said in Texas that a good DA can get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich. And Earle is a pretty good DA who works before a largely Democratic grand jury. Earle once brought charges against Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, a Republican, only to have the case thrown out later by a judge.
But a March 17* editorial in the Houston Chronicle noted: "During his long tenure, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle has prosecuted many more Democratic officials than Republicans. The record does not support allegations that Earle is prone to partisan witch hunts."
This assertion supports Earle's own claim about his record. From a March 6 article in the El Paso Times: "Earle says local prosecution is fundamental and points out that 11 of the 15 politicians he has prosecuted over the years were Democrats."
On June 17, the Associated Press reported: "A county prosecutor [Earle] already investigating House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's fund-raising committee for alleged campaign finance violations is looking into similar allegations involving Democratic Rep. Martin Frost."
A January 30, 1994, New York Times article reported that Earle was investigating a Democrat, then-Texas assistant attorney general Gary Bledsoe, on charges similar to those he brought against Hutchison.
In a February 6, 1994, article about Hutchison's case, The Washington Post reported that in 1983, Earle had indicted then-Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox on felony bribery charges. Mattox was Hutchison's challenger in her 1994 Senate reelection bid.
Correction: This item originally indicated that the Houston Chronicle editorial was from June 17, 2004, and linked to a website providing the full text of the editorial but another incorrect date, March 17, 2003. In fact, the editorial was written on March 17, 2004.