NYT's Stolberg Spins Her Wheels for Crash Artist Rep. Patrick Kennedy

In Monday's NY Times, pro-Democratic congressional reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg lauds yet another prominent and controversial Democrat. Stolberg puts what (even for her) is some pretty impressive pro-Kennedy family spin on Rep. Patrick Kennedy's recent Capitol Hill car crash, complete with a helpful headline portraying Kennedy as a crusading victim: "For a Kennedy, Fighting the Stigma of Mental Illness Becomes Personal."

"He has attributed the accident to confusion caused by two medicines, Ambien, a sleep aid, and Phenergan, for gastric distress. Medical experts say his explanation for the accident is plausible, though the Capitol Police, who complained that their supervisors barred sobriety testing, said they suspected that Mr. Kennedy had been drinking. He said he had not."

The Times doesn’t bother digging further, but a May 5 article in the Boston Herald does, noting that despite his denials, Kennedy was seen in a prominent Hill bar before the crash:

"U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy insisted yesterday that he had consumed ‘no alcohol’ before he slammed his Mustang convertible into a concrete barrier near his office, but a hostess at a popular Capitol Hill watering hole told the Herald she saw him drinking in the hours before the crash.

"'He was drinking a little bit,' said the woman, who works at the Hawk & Dove and would not give her name. Leaving his office late last night, Kennedy refused to say whether he’d been to the Hawk & Dove the night before. Earlier in the evening, Kennedy issued a statement through his office blaming the accident and strange behavior surrounding it on prescription drugs."

Herald reporter Dave Wedge also noted a possible attempt at interference from higher-ups:

"Questions arose surrounding the wreck amid police reports that Kennedy was 'staggering' and appeared intoxicated after nearly hitting a Capitol Police cruiser and then striking the barrier. The incident became public when the union representing Capitol Police alleged in a publicly released letter that superior officers prevented rank-and-file cops from properly investigating the crash."

None of that is mentioned in Stolberg's predictably sympathetic take, which spins for Kennedy.

"Those life experiences seem to have shaped him. Like many of his relatives, he is an advocate for the disenfranchised. But as [Rhode Island political columnist Charles] Bakst said, 'He seems to feel it personally.'"

Political Scandals Congress New York Times
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