WORST. SMEAR. EVER….. A few weeks ago, some on the right thought they’d found a big new scandal. President Obama nominated Scott Matheson — law school dean, former Harvard professor, Rhodes scholar, respected attorney, and accomplished federal prosecutor — to serve on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals. For conservatives, the nomination was an attempted bribe of sorts — Scott Matheson’s brother, Jim, is a Utah congressman who was weighing whether to vote for health care reform. The right, as it’s prone to do, saw a conspiracy.

Except there wasn’t one, as even Republican officials quickly conceded. The whole story was nonsense, and most of the right moved on.

Some didn’t get the memo. (thanks to reader G.S.)

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., claimed on Fox News [yesterday] morning that Rep. Jim Matheson switched his position to support health care after the congressman’s brother was named to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.

“In Utah, a member from Utah that voted on the bill, he was against it and then he was for it. What a coincidence that his brother just got named to be a federal judge,” Barrasso told Fox’s Greta Van Susteren.

First, for a senator to allege a conspiracy of this sort on national television with no proof is truly ridiculous.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, Jim Matheson voted against the health care reform bill. Barrasso, hoping to paint a picture of corruption, said the Democrat “was against it and then he was for it.” But if Barrasso had bothered to check before attacking a lawmaker’s integrity in front of a national audience, he would have seen that the Democrats voted against reform in November and in March.

A Barrasso spokesperson said late yesterday that the senator “misspoke.” If “misspoke” means “falsely accused a member of Congress of accepting a bribe,” then sure, Barrasso “misspoke.”

Granted, the far-right senator isn’t the only one who keeps pushing this unusually stupid conspiracy theory, but Fox News personalities and sitting U.S. senators are held to different standards.

The need for the Republican caucus to clean up its act is becoming overwhelming.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.