It's been a difficult week for so many Americans. As recently as last weekend -- which seems like months ago -- many were concerned about a missile test from nuclear-armed North Korea. Since then, we've seen the bloodshed in Boston, the deadly explosion in Texas, the ricin letters, Midwestern flooding, and a Senate minority ignoring the will of 90% of Americans.
It can be a bit much, and when people are feeling on edge, they need to see their elected officials operating at their very best. The vast majority of officials, known and unknown, have been exemplary.
Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), however, appears to be falling far short of this standard.
It didn't take long for a lawmaker to pick up the latest right-wing conspiracy theory about the Boston Marathon bombings. Just hours after controversial terrorism expert Steve Emerson reported [Wednesday] night on Sean Hannity's show that unnamed "sources" told him the government was quietly deporting the Saudi national who was initially suspected in the bombing, South Carolina GOP Rep. Jeff Duncan grilled Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on the rumor at a hearing [Thursday] morning.
Duncan, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee and chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency, presented the conspiracy theory as fact, chastising Napolitano for deporting a terror suspect (who, in reality, isn't being deported and isn't a suspect). Napolitano, annoyed, replied, "I don't know where that rumor came from."
As it turns out, it came from Hannity's show, and was pushed very aggressively by Glenn Beck. Drudge and Erick Erickson talked it up, too. All of them were completely wrong.
And while that's unfortunate, right-wing media personalities aren't on the House Homeland Security Committee. Duncan is, and he used his official platform to pester the Secretary of Homeland Security, in a public congressional hearing, with bogus information he presented as fact, all because he couldn't tell the difference between reality and silly conspiracy theories.
Worse, when Napolitano tried to set the record straight, Duncan pressed forward, saying, "He is being deported." Except, of course, the person in question is not. When the far-right congressman continued to spout nonsense, Napolitano effectively gave up, saying Duncan's inquiries are "full of misstatements and misapprehensions," and "not worthy of an answer."
Wait, it gets even worse.
Aviva Shen noted a separate exchange from the same hearing.
In a House hearing Thursday morning, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano was sidetracked from her testimony on the DHS budget when Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC) asked her to respond to an online conspiracy theory about the DHS supposedly stockpiling ammo for an attack on Americans. Duncan argued this was more credible than mere "Internet rumors" because the Drudge Report, a popular conservative aggregator, said it was true.
It's a difficult time, and Americans need sensible policymakers to keep their heads on straight, serving at the top of their game. In other words, the country needs officials who aren't acting like Jeff Duncan.