Following the House Ethics Committee's October 6 admonishment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), CNN host Lou Dobbs and CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry promoted the spin -- advanced by DeLay -- that Texas District Attorney Ronnie Earle's September 21 indictments of three top DeLay aides may be politically motivated. But as Media Matters for America has documented, Earle's record contradicts charges of partisan motivations.
On the October 7 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight, host Dobbs said to Henry: "I think it's incumbent upon us as well, Ed, to point out that the prosecutor in Houston [Earle] is a Democrat." Henry agreed with Dobbs, adding: "[H]e [Earle] went after Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) several years ago, and that case fell apart."
The professed need of Dobbs and Henry to point that out about Earle did not extend to a sense of obligation to note, as a March 17* editorial in the Houston Chronicle did: "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."
Henry's statement that Earle "went after Hutchison" but that the case "fell apart" echoed the charges of a September 24 Wall Street Journal editorial attack on Earle. The Journal's case against Earle's integrity and motives relied entirely on his unsuccessful prosecution of Hutchison in 1993. But MMFA cited several examples, which the Journal ignored, of Earle prosecuting Democratic officials; these include his 1983 indictment of then-Texas Attorney General Jim Mattox, who later opposed Hutchison in her 1994 Senate reelection campaign.
From the October 7 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:
DOBBS: I think when we say "could," we also have to say that he could also be exonerated, and I think it's incumbent upon us as well, Ed, to point out that the prosecutor in Houston is a Democrat.
HENRY: That's right, and he went after Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison several years ago, and that case fell apart.
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.