DeLay's spokesman makes a convenient mistake

Tom DeLay's spokesman insists he didn't intentionally mislead reporters when he fed them misinformation about the congressman's money-laundering case.

By Farhad Manjoo

Published December 29, 2005 5:31PM (EST)

Late on Tuesday evening, after the courts in Texas had closed for business, Kevin Madden, Rep. Tom DeLay's spokesman, sent a breathless e-mail to reporters suggesting that the money-laundering case against the congressman was almost over: "FYI-Breaking news out of Austin, TX," Madden wrote. "The state Court of Criminal Appeals has agreed to hear Mr. DeLay's habeas motion that was filed at the end of last week. The court has set a one-week deadline for briefs to be filed by the parties involved. The court could essentially decide to end Ronnie Earle's prosecution after hearing this motion and the facts presented."

Madden's quick e-mailing skills paid off: Reporters in Texas and across the nation quickly published this apparently great news for DeLay. There was only one problem with the news. It was completely wrong.

It turns out -- as the San Antonio Express-News reported on Wednesday -- that Texas' Court of Criminal Appeals did not agree to hear Tom DeLay's motion, as his spokesman had e-mailed. Instead, the court only agreed to consider hearing DeLay's case. As the News-Express explains it, the court's "decision not to reject DeLay's appeal outright was like not slamming a door in DeLay's face." One law professor tells the paper that the decision only means that "things haven't gone as bad (for DeLay) as they could have gone."

In an interview with the paper, Madden conceded that his e-mail misled reporters. But he insisted that this was not his intention. "In an effort to be instantaneous, I wasn't precise," he said. "My understanding (of the decision) was correct. The way I relayed it wasn't."

Farhad Manjoo

Farhad Manjoo is a Salon staff writer and the author of True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society.

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