Kennedy: It was the drugs, not alcohol

The Rhode Island Democrat says a combination of prescription medications left him disoriented.

Tim Grieve
May 5, 2006 4:44PM (UTC)

After initially denying that alcohol had anything to do with his early-morning car accident near the U.S. Capitol, Rhode Island Democrat Patrick Kennedy is now putting the blame on a blend of prescription drugs.

In a statement, Kennedy says he took two prescription drugs Wednesday night: the sleeping medication Ambien and Phenergan, which is prescribed for gastroenteritis. Then, he says, "Sometime around 2:45 a.m., I drove the few blocks to the Capitol Complex believing I needed to vote. Apparently, I was disoriented from the medication."


Although Capitol Police sergeants allegedly stepped in before patrol officers could give Kennedy a roadside sobriety test Thursday morning, the congressman continues to insist that alcohol wasn't a factor in the accident. Lou Cannon, the president of the D.C. Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 1, tells the Washington Post that he's skeptical. "The timeliness of the statement says everything," he said, noting that it took Kennedy 19 hours from the time of the accident before he came up with his public explanation for it.

Of course, 19 hours doesn't seem so unreasonable when measured against the current gold standard for such things. You'll recall that Vice President Dick Cheney managed to avoid a field sobriety test on the evening he shot Harry Whittington; that Cheney's camp didn't make any kind of public statement until nearly 13 hours after the incident; and that Cheney didn't admit publicly to drinking before the shooting until four days after the fact.

Update: Kennedy's office announced Friday afternoon that he will seek treatment for prescription drug addiction. Meanwhile, Capitol Police cited him for speeding, driving in the wrong lane and failing to devote his undivided attention to driving.

Tim Grieve

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

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