Following reports that Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) would not seek re-election this year, several media figures -- including Fox News' Stuart Varney and Steve Doocy and MSNBC's Joe Scarborough -- have claimed Dodd received a "sweetheart" mortgage deal from Countrywide. However, in their reports, these same media figures failed to note that the Senate Ethics Committee "found no credible evidence" Dodd's mortgages violated Senate ethics rules.
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Conservative media revive claims about Dodd's mortgage "scandal"
Varney: Dodd "got a sweetheart deal from Countrywide Financial right at the center of the subprime mess." From the January 6 edition of Fox News' America's Newsroom:
VARNEY: This shows the public mood. It shows that the public is intensely angered by bonuses and bailouts. In fact, Senator Dodd could not escape the panic, the banking panic of '08 because he is the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. On his watch, he allowed AIG executives to walk away with millions of dollars in bonuses after a huge taxpayer bailout. He got a sweetheart deal from Countrywide Financial right at the center of the subprime mess.
Doocy: "friend of Angelo" Dodd "got that below-public, subprime mortgage for ... one or two of his properties." From the January 6 edition of Fox & Friends:
BRIAN KILMEADE (co-host): Now let's talk about four Democratic seats in the Senate. You know the Democrats have 60 seats in the Senate. Well, four are up for grabs after two announcements yesterday.
DOOCY: Well, one official announcement yesterday, and that is Byron Dorgan of North Dakota -- has said, "You know what? I'm going to bow out." He's a Democrat. Later on today, Chris Dodd, friend of Angelo, who got into -- there's Byron Dorgan right there -- Chris Dodd, who got that below-public, subprime mortgage for one of -- actually, one or two of his properties -- he will announce later today at his home in Connecticut that he is saying goodbye.
Scarborough: Dodd "had the Countrywide scandal, where he got the sweetheart deal on the loan." From the January 6 edition of MSNBC's Morning Joe:
MIKA BRZEZINSKI (co-host): Senator Chris Dodd is retiring. He's out.
SCARBOROUGH: Isn't that something?
BRZEZINSKI: NBC News is confirming reports that the longtime senator is calling it quits. He says he will not seek a sixth term.
SCARBOROUGH: A lot of things going into this decision. Obviously, his poll numbers have dropped precipitously. He had the Countrywide scandal, where he got the sweetheart deal on the loan. He was also, of course, on the Banking cCommittee when things blew up. A lot of things he said about Fannie and Freddie, saying they were solvent, nothing to see here.
But Varney, Doocy, and Scarborough failed to note that Senate Ethics Committee cleared Dodd in loan "scandal"
Senate Ethics Committee dismissed complaint after spending year reviewing 18,000 pages of documents. As Media Matters noted, on August 7, the Select Committee on Ethics wrote to Dodd that "the Committee finds no substantial credible evidence as required by Committee rules that your Countrywide mortgages violated Senate ethics rules." The letter stated:
No Credible Evidence of an Ethics Rule Violation
After examining the extensive record before it, the Committee found no credible evidence that you knowingly accepted a gift, including a loan not available to the public.
First, your mortgages were made in a commercially-reasonable manner based on terms and conditions available to borrowers with similar loan profiles. While your Countrywide loans were handled through the V.I.P. loan unit and designated as F.O.A. loans, the service you received was available to thousands of other non-Senate customers at Countrywide and the loans you received appear to have been available industry-wide to borrowers with comparable loan profiles. It appears your loans met all applicable underwriting standards and that you and your wife were excellent loan candidates and established Countrywide customers in good standing. You sought competing mortgage offers from other lenders that offered terms substantially similar to the ones Countrywide provided. There is no evidence that the interest rates for your Countrywide mortgages were below prevailing market rates.
Second, there is no credible evidence that you sought or knowingly received any financial benefits not available to other borrowers with similar loan profiles. The Committee has found no evidence that you or your wife ever asked for special treatment or that anyone ever communicated to you or your family that you were receiving specific discounts or other special treatment not available to other borrowers because of your status as a Senator.
Third, there is no credible evidence that you used your official position for personal gain. The Committee found no evidence that you fully understood the scope of the V.I.P. program, knew that you were in the "Friends of Angelo" program, or attempted to use your status as a Senator to receive loan terms not available to the public.