Who's the "coward" now?

Ohio Rep. Jean Schmidt dodges the press and the public as the fallout over her smear continues.

Published November 22, 2005 5:20PM (EST)

What's that you were saying about "cowards," Jean Schmidt?

The Cincinnati Post is reporting that the Republican representative from Ohio won't talk to reporters about her decision to smear Pennsylvania Rep. Jack Murtha on the House floor last week, and the Cincinnati Enquirer says she skipped two previously scheduled public appearances yesterday.

Who can blame her, really? Four days after she strapped on her nicest red, white and blue sweater and suggested that a 37-year veteran of the Marine Corps is a "coward" who wants to "cut and run" from Iraq, Schmidt is under attack from editorial writers and comedians alike.

And it gets worse. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer recycles the promise Schmidt made as she took office earlier this year -- "I pledge to ... refrain from name-calling or the questioning of character" -- other Ohio papers are saying that Schmidt's smear of Murtha was factually incorrect in addition to being morally reprehensible. When Schmidt said, "Cowards cut and run, Marines never do," she claimed to be repeating a message that Ohio state legislator Danny Bubp has asked her to deliver to Murtha. But Bubp's office tells the Cincinnati Post that, while Bubp spoke with Schmidt last week, he didn't mention Murtha by name or ask Schmidt to convey any message to him. "The unfortunate thing about all of that is that her choice of words on the floor of the House -- I don't know, she's a freshman, she had one minute," Bubp himself told the Cincinnati Enquirer. "Unfortunately, they came out wrong."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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Iraq War John Murtha D-pa.