An Internet rumor about a Democratic senator being drunk on the Senate floor has prompted Mark Foley, the disgraced Florida Republican, to issue harsh words of condemnation that some observers see as being hypocritical.
Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) was accused last week by an anonymous YouTube user of being drunk on the Senate floor December 22 when he criticized Republicans for negotiating in bad faith on health care reform. The video, posted by a user named "SocialistsSteal," shows Baucus slurring his words on several occasions during his address.
As David Weigel points out at the Washington Independent, Baucus often slurs his words, and Politico reports that the Montana senator's spokespeople are slamming the claim as an "untrue personal smear internet rumor."
Despite the lack of evidence, the Internet rumor made its way into the news cycle, with the Drudge Report headlining it under the title "DRUNK WITH POWER? TOP DEM SLURS ON SENATE FLOOR..."
And that's when former Florida House Rep. Mark Foley got in on the action. Foley, who was forced to resign in September, 2006, after it emerged that he had exchanged sexually-charged text messages with underage congressional interns, posted the video to his Facebook page.
"This is the senator that hired his staffer and then took her on trips ... and divorced his wife ... and they had me run out of town," Foley wrote on his Facebook page, as quoted at Politico. In another posting, Foley called for breathalyzer tests for members of Congress.
The link to the video, as well as the breathalyzer and divorce comments, have now been deleted from Foley's Facebook page -- perhaps an indication that the former elected official isn't entirely certain about the claim that Baucus was drunk on the Senate floor.
The blogosphere responded immediately with accusations of hypocrisy against Foley.
"Yes, Mark, they had you run out of town because you were sending creepy, sexty instant messages to teenage Congressional pages, lest we forget," writes Jason Linkins at the Huffington Post.
For his part, Foley seems to be happy to have gained some attention. "My Facebook post just hit the top of Drudge," Foley wrote, referring to the Politico article that quotes him.
Foley's Facebook page indicates a predilection for news items having to do with sex scandals -- as well as a seeming lack of awareness of the irony of this.
Linking to an article about an Indian state governor who had to resign after being caught on tape in bed with three women, Foley wrote: "Give the guy a bit of credit ... he's 86 and doing tapes with three women."
Commenting on a Fox News report that Baucus' girlfriend and aide was involved in his divorce proceedings, Foley wrote: "Curious as to see if the Congress holds a 'show trial' on this issue like they did for me... They were able to have my case heard in very short time."
Political observers have turned their criticism on to news sources that they say have given the Baucus rumor credibility by reporting on it. The Washington Independent's Weigel writes:
The thing is, this sort of “drunk” smear against a Democrat giving a slightly slurred speech is not new. Last year, immediately after Joe Biden became Barack Obama’s running mate, a YouTube member named JonnyRatheon posted a 2:27 clip of Biden on the campaign trail and titled it “Joe Biden drunk on campaign trail – NOT a joke video.”
Of course, Biden was not drunk. The vice president — who survived an aneurysm in 1988 and has an easily parodied, freewheeling speaking style — is a teetotaler. But do a YouTube search for “Biden” and “drunk” and you’ll find numerous videos posted by people who mistake some slurred speech for inebriation.
The following video was broadcast on MSNBC's News Live, December 29, 2009.