Hardball: Downplaying Partisan Earle, Hyping Indictment as Political "Katrina"

Geoff Dickens reports that on Hardball last night, Chris Matthews was doing a little exaggerating. He asked Norah O'Donnell: "Norah he’s been charged with money laundering involving a Texas, a set of Texas legislative races down there." Wrong, said the Laura Ingraham radio show crew (two law school grads there): they said there's a separate state law for money laundering, and Earle didn't use that.

O'Donnell quickly recycled the day's "culture of corruption" DNC talking point: "One reporter asked Scott McClellan whether the President is concerned about a stink of corruption surrounding the Republican Party," what with news coverage of Frist, Abramoff, and now DeLay. "The White House said no and sort of rejected that. But clearly there are many political analysts and other observers who are saying this is an issue for the President who’s facing the lowest approval ratings of his presidency and needs to get a Congress and a Republican Party to move forward in his agenda when there’s a lot on the plate." Twenty minutes later, Matthews addressed whether Ronnie Earle is a partisan:

"Is there, is there anybody independent in Texas that is not a partisan bitter Democrat or partisan bitter Republican?"Karen Tumulty of Time had the DNC talking point: "Well, hey, Ronnie Earle has prosecuted 15 public officials in Texas, 12 of them were Democrats."

Matthews: "So, he’s, he’s not partisan?"

Tumulty backed off a little: "Well, he’s, he’s, certainly a Democrat and a staunch Democrat. But, again, his record isn`t as partisan as the, as the Republicans would like to make out."

Then, Matthews wanted to blow the DeLay charges into a metaphorical hurricane measurement: "And I want to ask if you sense that this is a, on the Category 5 scale. Mike."

Michael Isikoff, Newsweek: "The DeLay indictment?"

Matthews: "Yes."

Isikoff: "It`s pretty big, somewhere between a high three and a four, I would think."

Matthews: "In hurricane language. Karen."Tumulty: "I think it`s Katrina. It`s the one that people weren`t preparing for. This is the one that everybody thought was, was gonna blow over, and it didn`t.

Matthews returned to the earlier exaggeration: "The question of money-laundering and that."

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