Political favoritism at HUD? Nah, the secretary was just lying

Facing calls for an investigation, a spokeswoman says HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson didn't mean what he said.

Published May 9, 2006 11:25PM (EDT)

That story HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson told about killing a government contract when the would-be contractor told him he didn't like George W. Bush?

Jackson's office is now saying that he made it up.

Dustee Tucker, a spokeswoman for Jackson, tells the Dallas Business Journal that Jackson's story was "anecdotal." In our minds, that word means "based on something I saw, not on the results of some scientific experiment." At HUD, it apparently means "fiction."

In saying "I believe" that people who don't support Bush shouldn't get government contracts, Jackson was "merely trying to explain to the audience how people in D.C. will say critical things about the secretary, will unfairly characterize the president and then turn around and ask you for money," Tucker says. And when Jackson said that the contractor didn't get a contract after telling Jackson that he didn't support Bush? Tucker says Jackson "did not actually meet with someone and turn down a contract" and that he's "not part of the contracting process."

It's not every day that a department spokesman says that a Cabinet secretary is lying, but desperate times call for desperate measures. As word of Jackson's comments circulated through the blogosphere today, Reps. Henry Waxman and Barney Frank called for an investigation into HUD's contracting practices, and Sen. Frank Lautenberg said that Jackson should resign.

Update: It keeps getting better. As the Washington Post's Al Kamen notes, the same HUD spokeswoman who says the rebuffed-contractor story never happened offered prior comments that seem to contradict this one pretty completely. When the Dallas Business Journal asked Tucker about the value of the contract Jackson supposedly killed, she said: "Because it was not awarded per what the secretary said, we don't have any record of it. It was probably all verbal at that point." That doesn't sound so "anecdotal" to us.

By Tim Grieve

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

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