One incident is real, one is not

ONE INCIDENT IS REAL, ONE IS NOT…. Arguably this week’s most dangerous instance of Tea Party extremism involves Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.). Right-wing activists posted what they thought was the congressman’s home address, but it turned out to be the address of his brother’s house. That detail didn’t stop someone from going to the home and, according to the FBI, deliberately severing a gas line.

Today, however, the Washington Post editorial page drew a parallel between the Perriello incident and “the bullet fired through a window of Mr. Cantor’s campaign office.”

And this is why the Washington Post editorial board makes me sad.

To be sure, I can understand why the Post might be confused. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the House Minority Whip, told reporters in a nationally televised news conference yesterday:

“I’ve received threats since I assumed elected office — not only because of my position, but also because I’m Jewish. I’ve never blamed anyone in this body for that.

“Just recently I have been directly threatened: A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week.”

The remarks generated some strikingly irresponsible “journalism.” Fox News told viewers about the incident in which a “gunman shoots up” the office of the Republican House leader.

At this point, here’s what we know about Cantor’s tall tale (details that were available yesterday, and which the WaPo editorial board should have considered before publishing):

1. Cantor was never threatened. In fact, local police believe the bullet had been fired in the air, and ended up hitting a window at random.

2. It wasn’t Cantor’s campaign office.

3. The office was not “shot up.” According to a statement from the Richmond Police Department, “The round struck with enough force to break the windowpane but did not penetrate the window blinds. There was no other damage to the room.”

Taken together, what Cantor told reporters — and the entire country — was clearly false. When he said he was “directly threatened,” Cantor was either shamelessly, blatantly lying, or he was popping off about a harmless incident without getting his facts straight.

It’s a credibility-killing moment for the Minority Whip, or at least it would be if major media outlets were willing to consider the veracity of his claim. At this point, Cantor has a responsibility to apologize and/or retract his bogus claim.