What Really Happened With The Gingrich Ethics Case?
The Romney campaign keeps hitting Newt Gingrich over the 1990s ethics case that ended with the former Speaker receiving a reprimand and paying a $300,000 penalty. Voters in Iowa and other states keep hearing that Gingrich "had to resign in disgrace." Byron York, who is a fantastic reporter, revisits the incident and the results are very surprising:
Given all the attention to the ethics matter, it's worth asking what actually happened back in 1995, 1996, and 1997. The Gingrich case was extraordinarily complex, intensely partisan, and driven in no small way by a personal vendetta on the part of one of Gingrich's former political opponents. It received saturation coverage in the press; a database search of major media outlets revealed more than 10,000 references to Gingrich's ethics problems during the six months leading to his reprimand. It ended with a special counsel hired by the House Ethics Committee holding Gingrich to an astonishingly strict standard of behavior, after which Gingrich in essence pled guilty to two minor offenses. Afterwards, the case was referred to the Internal Revenue Service, which conducted an exhaustive investigation into the matter. And then, after it was all over and Gingrich was out of office, the IRS concluded that Gingrich did nothing wrong. After all the struggle, Gingrich was exonerated.
He goes through the specifics of the case, including the role Dukes of Hazzard actor Ben "Cooter" Jones played in the controversy. He briefly explains exactly how things developed and the short read is well worth it. The IRS checked out each of the videotaped lessons and the evaluations written by the college students who took the course. He was completely exonerated.
When he'd gone through the drama, the Washington Post and New York Times ran extensive coverage. On one day alone, the New York Times ran 11 stories on the Gingrich matter, four on the front page. The broadcast news likewise led with the story.
The story was much different when Gingrich was exonerated. The Washington Post ran a brief story on page five. The Times ran an equally brief story on page 23. And the evening newscasts of CBS, NBC, and ABC -- which together had devoted hours of coverage to the question of Gingrich's ethics -- did not report the story at all. Not a word.
An exception is this CNN report which gives some of the details: