Tim Russert and George Stephanopoulos advanced the baseless claim that Democrats are behind the scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), asking their Democratic guests to respond to the accusations despite ample evidence that they are false.
On the October 8 broadcasts of NBC's Meet the Press and ABC's This Week, hosts Tim Russert and George Stephanopoulos advanced the baseless claim by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) and others that Democrats are behind the scandal involving former Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), asking their Democratic guests to respond to the accusations despite ample evidence that the accusations are false, as Media Matters for America has noted.
On This Week, Stephanopoulos asked Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee: "All week long, there have been suggestions by -- on talk radio and by Republicans and their allies that this was perhaps a Democratic dirty trick, and I just want to ask you plainly: Did you or your staff know anything about these emails or instant messages before they came out?" In fact, as Emanuel pointed out in response, and as Media Matters for America has noted, ABC investigative reporter Brian Ross -- who broke the Foley story for Stephanopoulos's own network -- reportedly said that the sources for his initial report, to the extent they had partisan affiliations, were Republicans. In addition, The Hill newspaper reported that a House Republican aide provided Foley's alleged emails to the media.
On Meet the Press, Russert quoted Hastert from an October 4 Chicago Tribune interview asserting,"The people who want to see this blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by George Soros," then added that Soros "has given millions and millions of dollars to Democratic causes." He then asked Missouri State Auditor Claire McCaskill, a Democratic candidate for Senate, "Have any Democratic operatives been involved in spreading this information?" Russert asked McCaskill to respond to Hastert despite Ross's statement and The Hill's report, as well as Hastert's own admission that he has no evidence to support his accusation. When asked to explain his statement to the Tribune during an October 5 press conference, Hastert said, "I only know what I've seen in the press and what I've heard. There's no ultimate, real source of information but that's what I've read." In addition, the Chicago Tribune reported on October 6 that Republican officials rebuked Hastert for advancing the theory that Democrats were behind the Foley scandal:
Comments that Hastert made in a Tribune interview suggesting the scandal had been orchestrated by ABC News, Democratic political operatives aligned with the Clinton White House and liberal activist George Soros were considered a serious misstep in national Republican circles, an official said. Senior Republican officials contacted Hastert's office before his news conference Thursday to urge that he not repeat the charges, and he backed away from them in his news conference.
"The Chicago Tribune interview last night -- the George Soros defense -- was viewed as incredibly inept," a national Republican official said. "It could have been written by [comedian] Jon Stewart."
Democrats ridiculed assertions that party operatives arranged the scandal.
From the October 8 broadcast of ABC's This Week:
STEPHANOPOULOS: All week long, there have been suggestions by -- on talk radio and by Republicans and their allies that this was perhaps a Democratic dirty trick, and I just want to ask you plainly: Did you or your staff know anything about these emails or instant messages before they came out?
EMANUEL: George, never saw them, and I'm going to say one thing: Let's go through the facts right here.
REP. ADAM PUTNAM (R-FL): But were you aware of them? You said you didn't see them.
EMANUEL: Never saw them. Let me go right through the facts. One, Brian Ross, who broke this story on your network, said it came from a Republican source -- very unusual to do that. Fact two: The Hill paper said it came from a Republican source. All the Republicans and staff people who are coming forward are Republicans. Mark Foley, who wrote the emails originally at the bottom of this whole problem, Republican. The leadership of the Congress from [Rep.] Tom Reynolds [R-NY] to [House Majority leader Rep.] John Boehner [R-OH] to Speaker Hastert, who can't come on this show --
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you're not aware of -- no involvement.
EMANUEL: No, we never saw them -- no involvement and she said -- not anything, George, and the fact is this is a wholly --
PUTNAM: Was there awareness? Was there any awareness?
EMANUEL: No, never saw them. The first time I ever saw these things right here when Brian Ross broke the show [sic] and when the Post had the story. What you guys want to do is take your dirty laundry and throw it over the fence and try to blame other people for the problem.
From the October 8 broadcast of NBC's Meet the Press:
RUSSERT: But Ms. McCaskill, Speaker Hastert said this: "The people who want to see this blow up are ABC News and a lot of Democratic operatives, people funded by George Soros," who has given millions and millions of dollars to Democratic causes. Have any Democratic operatives been involved in spreading this information?
McCASKILL: Tim, as a former prosecutor, I had to handle dozens and dozens of heartbreaking cases where children had been sexually abused, where predators had been doing their work. I know this, that when a 50-year-old man is asking a teenage boy on the Internet for his picture, the response needs to be something other than "I better go tell the chairman of the Republican campaign committee." Clearly, what has happened here is an arrogance of power, it's about holding onto power instead of doing the right thing. And Washington is not working. This shouldn't be about power; this should be about protecting kids and calling the authorities, calling the Ethics Committee. They didn't even tell the Democrat on the Page Committee. This was about a cover-up. I think it's wrong. I think it is a great example of how out of touch Washington is and how they've got their priorities all wrong.
RUSSERT: Should the speaker resign?
RUSSERT: Should the investigation be reported before the election?
RUSSERT: And do you have any information that Democratic operatives may have been spreading this information?
McCASKILL: Absolutely -- I'm, I'm, I'm from Missouri. I'm not really in contact with Democratic operatives from Washington, D.C. I know as a former prosecutor and as a mother of teenagers, like [panelist Sen.] Jim [Talent (R-MO)], that, I know that, if my child was that page and I found out they called the head of the campaign committee instead of the Ethics Committee and the authorities, I'd be hopping mad.