When Sen. John Ensign, Republican of Nevada, went on CNN Thursday to talk to host Rick Sanchez, the scandal-plagued politician thought he was going to have airtime to launch attacks against the Obama administration over the Flight 253 security breach. Instead, the Nevada politician found himself facing tough questions about allegations he helped secure a job for an aide with whose wife he was sleeping.
In June, Ensign admitted having an affair with the wife of Doug Hampton, an aide in his Capitol Hill office. Until that point, Ensign had been considered a contender for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Allegations then emerged that Ensign may have violated ethics rules by paying $96,000 to Hampton and helping to arrange a job for his aide that involved lobbying efforts.
As CNN’s Sanchez pointed out to Sen. Ensign on Thursday, the law prohibits congressional aides from working as lobbyists for a year after leaving the Hill. But allegations that Ensign set up lobbyist meetings for Hampton would indicate the senator and his aide may have disregarded that rule.
“Did you help [Doug Hampton] get a job because you felt bad for him, or because you had been sleeping with his wife and you wanted to get him out of the way?” Sanchez asked Ensign point blank.
“I’ve commented all I was going to comment on that,” Ensign responded. “We told you when we were going to come on here that I’m going to be focused on health care, I’m gonna be focused on the economy…”
But Sanchez persisted in his line of questioning — for a full seven minutes.
“This certainly isn’t the first time that CNN’s Rick Sanchez has distinguished himself as a real journalist, but it may his best moment yet,” applauded blogger MeMeMeMeMe at DailyKos.
“There must be some confusion here. CNN is asking actual and persistently dogged and tough questions of a high-ranking public official, a member of Congress no less, live on TV and everything, like actual journalists or something,” quips Brad Friedman at BradBlog.
The following video was broadcast on CNN, December 31, 2009, and uploaded to the Web by TalkingPointsMemo.