Coda on Cantor

CODA ON CANTOR…. We seem to have come to an end on the story of House Minority Whip Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) magic bullet, with the GOP leader’s office acknowledging yesterday that Cantor’s claim, repeated to a national audience, wasn’t true.

The Minority Whip’s remarks didn’t leave a lot of wiggle room: “Just recently I have been directly threatened: A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week.”

Despite some unusually stupid “journalism” in the wake of the claim, practically every angle of Cantor’s story was wrong. There was no threat; the bullet was fired randomly; and it wasn’t even Cantor’s campaign office.

So, Cantor was either shamelessly, blatantly lying, or he was popping off about a harmless incident without getting his facts straight. Yesterday, his aides went with Door #2.

[Cantor spokesperson Brad Dayspring] says Cantor didn’t know at the time of the presser what the police subsequently revealed. He says that before the presser, Cantor aides called the police to learn what was known.

“We didn’t want to catch them by surprise, we wanted an update on the investigation, and we wanted to be 100 percent accurate,” Dayspring says, adding that the trajectory of the bullet was not discussed: “What was known at the time was that a bullet had been fired through the window and that the investigation was ongoing.”

Police put out their press statement later in the afternoon, under intense media pressure.

For what it’s worth, I’m inclined to believe most of this. Cantor isn’t very bright, but even I find it hard to believe he would know the relevant details and then deliberately, brazenly lie on national television about something like this.

But the defense doesn’t exactly make Cantor look good, either. The Minority Whip was so anxious to make it seem like violent threats are a problem for “both sides” that he, ahem, jumped the gun. He didn’t really know what he was talking about, but he nevertheless told reporters and Americans about a “threat” that didn’t exist. Many media outlets even bought into Cantor’s claim at face value, assuming he wouldn’t say something like this if it weren’t true. For that matter, for a media desperate to characterize every ugly phenomenon as “bipartisan,” Cantor gave journalists what they wanted.

But it wasn’t true. Given the larger atmosphere, and the actual violence that’s already occurred, people in Cantor’s position have a responsibility not to be reckless with the truth. It’s a responsibility Cantor clearly and conveniently forgot at an important moment.