The Washington Whirlwind and the Rumor Mill

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“I would rather err on the side of telling readers what is going on in a play by play and having to update than have a media elite in Washington decide what you and I should know.”

Let’s get everybody up to speed here.

Yesterday, Kevin McCarthy backed out of the Speaker’s race after he, Renee Ellmers, and others received an email from a conservative activist/philanthropist openly talking about a rumored relationship between the two. It was the second of two emails, the first of which went out to other congressmen last week.

Overnight, reporters started buzzing that McCarthy was going to resign. They were also telling me that Ellmers was resigning. Neither appear to be true. In fact, this morning McCarthy is denying it.

Concurrent to that rumor is the one that Paul Ryan is in as Speaker. I talked to two congressmen overnight and both were adamant that Ryan is getting in. They seem a lot more confident of it than anyone else I’ve spoken to and Ryan is very non-commital. He says he is going to Wisconsin this weekend to sort it out.

The point of this catch up is that the media has gone into a feeding frenzy and I recognize I’ve been a part of it over the last 24 hours. Lots of rumors are thrown out there. I view my role here as keeping you abreast of what people are chattering about in Washington and will update posts throughout the day as rumors die and new ones come about.

But it is worth noting that had I not posted on the emails to McCarthy and Ellmers, it might not have gotten out there. Matt Lewis and I both knew they were there and we wrote about them. I think they explain the missing piece of the puzzle as to McCarthy’s sudden withdrawal.

Neither of us accept the rumors as true, but the rumors were deeply relevant to the story. Mark Halperin tweeted this yesterday:

Exactly. Had I and also Matt Lewis not run with the story, you probably would not know. But subsequent to our coverage of it, Michael Calderone ran a more lengthy story on the situation. Still, most major news outlets refuse to talk about it.

It is, however, the most logical explanation for his abrupt quitting. It does not matter that the rumor is not true — but who in their right mind would want to subject himself, his family, and his colleagues to something like that?

Back in 2008, Washington reporters refused to treat stories about John Edwards having an affair as having any legitimacy. They were sympathetic to the likable Edwards and did not want to hurt him nor did they want to deal with a dirty story like that. Turns out the National Enquirer beat them all as a result.

The Washington whirlwind spins off all sorts of rumors that turn out not to be true, see e.g. McCarthy resigning. But occasionally there are facts out there based on rumors that are true, see e.g. the emails sent out. I would rather err on the side of telling readers what is going on in a play by play and having to update than have a media elite in Washington decide what you and I should know.

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Erick Erickson
By Erick Erickson

Erick Erickson

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