Democratic Senate Minority Leader from Nevada Harry Reid attends a press conference where he spoke about funding for the Department of Homeland Security, among other issues, in Washington, DC, on Feb. 10, 2015.
Photo by Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA

Conservatives turn to new Harry Reid conspiracy theory

The story didn’t originate with Byron York, but it was a tweet from the conservative journalist yesterday that seemed to help the question reach a new level. The question, in this case, is whether Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) was actually injured by exercise equipment – or whether that’s just a cover story for a more nefarious truth.
A far-right blogger named John Hinderaker published a curious missive, passing along a pretty silly rumor: according to an unnamed Hinderaker friend who recently spent time in Las Vegas, a “number of people” in Nevada believe Reid’s injuries were caused by “mobsters,” who beat up the Senate leader after he failed to deliver on some unspecified promise.
Hinderaker said this tale “is a more likely story” than the official version involving Reid’s exercise equipment.
And York, the chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner and Fox News contributor, apparently intrigued, wondered on Twitter whether any journalist has “looked into the specifics of Harry Reid’s exercise equipment accident.” Around the same time, a handful of notable conservative bloggers quickly expressed their skepticism about Reid’s claims.
And that’s a shame. First, accidents involving exercise-band equipment is not uncommon, and many have experienced serious injuries. Second, as Matt Yglesias explained, the conspiracy theorists may not have thought this one through.
[F]or the Vegas mob – which was largely crushed in the 1980s – to break into the house of a United States senator, evade or overpower his security detail, and rough him up would be quite the trick. It would also be quite peculiar. If they really wanted to squeeze Reid, beating him up would be an odd way to do it. It would presumably be more effective, and bring less heat down on the mob, to threaten his family, or to simply threaten to release evidence of Reid’s relationship with the criminal underground to the press.
The right’s larger frustration stems from the sense that people should be looking more closely at Reid’s finances. But the truth here is that the media has looked into this. Extensively…. Reporters just haven’t found the kind of career-destroying smoking gun that conservatives want to find.
It’s probably best to keep this in mind when your wacky uncle sends you an all-caps email demanding to know the secret truths Harry Reid doesn’t want us to know.
More broadly, it’s stories like these that lead me to believe conservative media in general still needs to pick up its game. As we discussed last summer, the list of setbacks isn’t short: conservative media took “skewed polls” and “Friends of Hamas” seriously. Many in conservative media were caught up in payola controversies.
Conservative media ran reports about Obama’s non-existent library using Reagan’s childhood home as a parking lot. And said Hillary Clinton may have been faking a concussion. And believed the Daily Caller’s reporting about Bob Menendez. And uncritically ran with all kinds of strange conspiracy theories about Benghazi, the IRS “scandal,” Fast & Furious, imaginary voter fraud, birth certificates, ACORN, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In fact, before I read the details of Hinderaker’s piece, I half-expected conservatives to tell me that Reid’s injuries were related to President Obama and the Clintons in some way, because, well, that’s usually how these stories go.
Maybe it’s good news Harry Reid’s injuries weren’t connected to Benghazi in some outrageous way?