Harry Reid's Mafia beating: Behind this week's most glorious right-wing conspiracy theory

Harry Reid said he injured himself in an "exercise accident." A likely story...

Published April 1, 2015 6:15PM (EDT)

Harry Reid       (Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)
Harry Reid (Jeff Malet, maletphoto.com)

The year 2015 is early yet, but by December's end, this tweet from Sunday should still make the finals for Politics Tweet of the Year:

[embedtweet id="582183963902476288"]

The Washington Examiner's Byron York is a typically smart, sober, connected analyst of GOP politics. With this tweet, York gave credence, and clued in much of the media, to a theory that has been simmering in the forgotten hindquarters of the conservative blogosphere: that the story of Harry Reid's New Years' exercise accident that left him with injuries to the eyes and ribs is a lie, and that it's much more likely that he was beaten up by vengeful mobsters.

What fuels this theory is not so much factual evidence as conservative priors. Conservatives dislike Harry Reid. They think that Harry Reid is corrupt. They have seen the Martin Scorsese film Casino, a film whose corrupt former Nevada gaming commissioner character is allegedly based on Harry Reid. They believe that the New Year's mob attack is the real reason that Harry Reid opted to retire, and that the mainstream media are being played for suckers if they really believe that the 75-year-old wants to retire because he's old and doesn't want to starve the party of precious electoral resources in the next cycle.

York's tweet alluded to a post from John Hinderaker, a veteran conservative blogger who's apparently still going at it after all these years. In his March 29 entry, Hinderaker explains that he wrote a post in January questioning Reid's official story, and this post still gets a lot of traffic. When people google "what happened to harry reid?" his January post is the first search result. Sweet, sweet traffic from the Google fountain is justification enough for Hinderaker to write another post expounding on his theory.

When a guy shows up at a Las Vegas emergency room on New Year’s Day with severe facial injuries and broken ribs, and gives as an explanation the functional equivalent of “I walked into a doorknob,” it isn’t hard to guess that he ran afoul of mobsters.

I don't know how John Hinderaker's mind works -- this has long been a mystery to much of the blogosphere -- but mine, at least, doesn't immediately link a person showing up at the emergency room to the idea that he must have been beaten up by mobsters. I, at least, would need a few more strands of evidence, or even a single strand of evidence, that someone had been beaten up by mobsters before I considered the possibility that he had been beaten up by mobsters.

Hinderaker does offer something that we wouldn't call "evidence," but it's definitely hearsay:

A friend of mine was in Las Vegas a week or two ago. He talked to a number of people there about Reid’s accident, and didn’t find anyone who believed the elastic exercise band story. The common assumption was that the incident resulted, in some fashion, from Reid’s relationship with organized crime. The principal rumor my friend heard was that Reid had promised to obtain some benefit for a group of mobsters. He met with them on New Year’s Day, and broke the bad news that he hadn’t been able to deliver what he promised. When the mobsters complained, Reid (according to the rumor) made a comment that they considered disrespectful, and one of them beat him up.

If a number of people told this to John Hinderaker's friend on a visit to Las Vegas, can there be any doubt? Who's to say that this theory is not true, aside from Reid's paid-off Praetorian Guard in the liberal media?

(Hinderaker's post earned him a lot of mockery on the Internet, so in an update, Hinderaker suggested that maybe it wasn't mobsters. It could have been a car accident, for example. The Reid Machine would definitely cover up a car accident. Or something else? It definitely wasn't an exercise accident, is all John Hinderaker is trying to say.)

Hinderaker got some serious backup yesterday in the form of a very credible Breitbart News investigative report titled "WHY HARRY REID'S HOME EXERCISE ACCIDENT STORY DOES NOT ADD UP." As of this writing, the piece has 1,812 comments and 9,504 Facebook shares, so you know it's airtight.

"A Breitbart News investigation of the home exercise accident story told by Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) and 'sources familiar with the incident,'" Breitbart's Michael Patrick Leahy writes, "has uncovered facts which appear to discredit his version of events surrounding a New Year’s Day incident that left him with gruesome injuries to his eye, face and ribs." Leahy notes that since the incident, many credible figures, like right-wing bloggers and their commenters as well as Rush Limbaugh, have questioned the official story. Now it's time for Leahy to break it wide open.

His first piece of evidence is that it would be ludicrous for Reid to attach elastic exercise bands to the shower door in his home. The experts, such as some character who has a YouTube video, just can't believe this.

“The door anchor has to be attached on the hinge side of the door. Harry Reid’s shower door is not an actual door, it’s merely a structure of glass. There couldn’t be a riskier place to attach it. Industry standards advocate using a solid triple hinged door with a locking mechanism,” Darrin Crowder, who has trained with resistance bands for years and is featured in The Art of Manliness online magazine YouTube video on resistance band training, tells Breitbart News.

Indeed, it would not have been a wise move at all for Harry Reid to attach his exercise bands to the shower door handle like that. Something bad could happen. Harry Reid could get into a serious accident! Sort of like... he did.

Leahy also gets his hands on top-secret blueprints for what's supposedly Harry Reid's home in Henderson, Nevada. Breitbart tried to get permission to publish these copyrighted blueprints, it explained, but didn't hear back. Having the scoop of the century on its hands, though, Breitbart went ahead and published them anyway. "Given the importance of this story," Leahy writes, "Breitbart News has included these images in this article, as a matter of public interest."

The blueprints are almost certainly the most damaging leak to the Democratic party since the Michelle Obama "whitey" tape. They show that there is not nearly enough room between the shower door and the cabinets -- it "appears to be 3 feet in width at best" -- in this model bathroom that is maybe the same as Harry Reid's. The Art of Manliness Internet person tells Breitbart that he likes to stand at least 5 or 6 feet away when he's doing his exercises. "You can see a demonstration of Crowder standing 5 to 6 feet away from the anchor door at the 1:40 mark in this The Art of Manliness resistance band training YouTube video," Leahy writes.

It is possible that Harry Reid is not as manly as Darrin Crowder, who is so manly that he has his very own YouTube video demonstrating his manliness. But we'd really be contorting ourselves to make this explanation work. The simple, Occam's razor truth is that Harry Reid was beaten up by after he "had promised to obtain some benefit for a group of mobsters" and couldn't keep his word. It was almost certainly Joe Pesci himself who administered the beating. As the mobsters were beating up Harry Reid, they almost certainly said "nyah nyah, suck on this cannoli" while cackling amongst themselves. All of the facts point to this very scene, and anyone who denies it is just making stuff up.

By Jim Newell

Jim Newell covers politics and media for Salon.

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