Fox News' Andrew Napolitano claimed that Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is a "former communist" and a "former member of the Communist Party" but provided no evidence to support either claim.
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During the November 19 edition of Fox News' Studio B, Fox News senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano, a former New Jersey Superior Court judge, baselessly claimed that Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie (D) is a "former member of the Communist Party." Discussing the members appointed to the Minnesota State Canvassing Board, which oversees the recount in the Minnesota Senate race, Napolitano stated: "The fifth member of the committee by statute, is the secretary of state, who is a Democrat and a former communist -- former member of the Communist Party." Napolitano provided no evidence to support his claim that Ritchie is "a former communist" or a "former member of the Communist Party."
Napolitano was taking further a smear advanced by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which, as Media Matters for America noted, put out a "background document" suggesting a link between Ritchie and the Communist Party. In that document, the NRSC reprinted an assertion in the Minneapolis Star Tribune that "The Communist Party USA wrote encouragingly of [Ritchie's] candidacy."
The Star Tribune article making the original claim that the "Communist Party USA wrote encouragingly of his candidacy" did not provide any evidence for this claim. According to a search of the Communist Party USA's website, in a June 24, 2006, report, CPUSA political action committee chair Joelle Fishman wrote: "In Minnesota the DFL [Democratic-Farmer-Labor, the state's version of the Democratic Party] candidate for Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, of the League of Rural Voters could play a valuable national role."
Moreover, Napolitano falsely claimed that "the governor appoints a committee of four people" to serve on the canvassing board. In fact, Ritchie named the board members on November 12. Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) has stated that he approves of the composition of the canvassing board, but did not pick the board. Additionally, The Associated Press reported on November 13 that "Fritz Knaak, [Republican Sen. Norm] Coleman's lead lawyer, said he was comfortable with the board's makeup." The AP quoted Knaak as saying, "The people of this state should feel good about who's on the panel."
From the November 19 edition of Fox News' Studio B with Shepherd Smith:
SMITH: The Republican incumbent, Norm Coleman, holds the slightest of leads -- 215 votes over the Democratic challenger, Al Franken. And election workers are now beginning the laborious task of hand counting -- like that's more accurate than the machines -- all 2.9 million ballots cast. Hand counting -- you go, Minnesota.
But what's a recount without a lawsuit? Al Franken, who's on Capitol Hill today, filed one to determine what to do about some rejected absentee ballots. Our senior judicial analyst, Judge Andrew Napolitano, is here. What's going on?
NAPOLITANO: Well, the governor appoints a committee of four people: two Republican judges, two Democratic judges. The fifth member of the committee, by statute, is the secretary of state, who is a Democrat and a former communist -- former member of the Communist Party.
Five people will rule on all contested issues. They don't physically do the counting. They hear arguments from one side or another about whether a ballot should be counted. There are many, many permutations here, because some counties use the old-fashioned mechanical vote, some use electronic, and some use paper ballots. I just finished reading the rules, and there's all kinds of ways.
For example, if a voter circles the name on a paper ballot instead of filling out the block, does that count? Yes. Every benefit is given for every conceivable way to find a vote to count.