Harry Reid rang in the New Year with multiple injuries he blamed on an exercise equipment accident, but now some skeptics are offering up conspiracy theories about the retiring senator, suggesting that perhaps he was the victim of an old-school mafia beat-down. More than anything, the speculation seems to point out the media's acceptance of Reid's story.
John Hinderaker wrote
Saturday on the PowerLine blog that "the national press has studiously averted its eyes from Reid’s condition, and has refused to investigate the cause of his injuries. To my knowledge, every Washington reporter has at least pretended to believe Reid’s story, and none, as far as I can tell, has inquired further."
Byron York, chief political correspondent for the Washington Examiner and Fox News contributor, echoed Hinderaker's call-to-inquiry on Twitter.
On Monday, Matthew Yglesias of Vox.com noted the conspiracy theory
, and created a timeline of Reid's comments on the injury.
The saga began on Jan. 2, when the Senate Minority Leader's office told the media that Reid had injured himself.
"Senator Reid received treatment at University Medical Center in Las Vegas for injuries sustained in an accident he suffered while exercising at home in Henderson," said the statement. "A piece of equipment Senator Reid was using to exercise broke, causing him to fall and break a number of ribs and bones in his face."
At the time, Reid spokesman Adam Jentleson told The Associated Press
that the exercise equipment was an elastic band, which broke, snapped Reid in the face, and caused him to fall. Reid hit other equipment on the way down as well as the floor, which broke his ribs, said Jentleson.
"Three days a week I have an exercise routine. I do 250 situps, some yoga-type stuff for a little while, and then I've been using for the last three or [so] plus years, these bands. I use one that's the second-strongest you can get, it's dark grey," Reid said in a January interview with Nevada radio station KNPR
"Anyway, I do those things hundreds of times, three days a week. I do different routines. And I was almost finished at my new home in Nevada and the band broke and it catapulted me backwards and to one side. I crashed into a series of cabinets we have and fortunately it missed my temple by just a little tiny bit and it hit me in my right eye and it broke a number of bones around my right eye and broke four ribs and a few bruises other places."
On Jan. 6, Reid recorded a video in which he was sporting a very bloody patch over his right eye, along with severe facial bruising.
Most reporters seemed to take Reid at his word, but one did ask him in late January
if he planned to sue the maker of the exercise equipment if it was faulty or defective. In response, Reid was vague, saying of the equipment, "Well, we have it, and we'll find out."
Reid also underwent eye surgery in late January as part of his treatment for the injury.
On March 27, Reid recorded a new video in which he was wearing special eyeglasses with a blurred right lens, and still had facial bruising. In the video, he announced plans to retire, and cited his injuries as part of the reason.
Hinderaker posited in his blog post that Reid could have been beaten up by Las Vegas "mobsters," and Yglesias wrote that, "In the late 1970s, Reid served as Nevada gaming commissioner, a job that at the time offered plenty of opportunity for interaction with individuals from the world of organized crime."
In 1978 he was offered a bribe and set up a sting operation with the FBI. In 1981, a car bomb was found in the Reid family's car, a situation recreated in Martin Scorsese's classic Las Vegas-mobster flick "Casino."
Yglesias concluded that mob ties are unlikely because the Las Vegas mob was "largely crushed in the 1980s," and said that Reid's finances have undergone extensive media scrutiny over the years.
Hinderaker, however, didn't seem concerned about Reid's finances as a first-order concern per se. His blog post suggested that if Reid is lying and was beaten up by someone, major media outlets have been complicit in that lie for not investigating it.
"The common assumption was that the incident resulted, in some fashion, from Reid’s relationship with organized crime . . . Is that what really happened? I have no idea, but it is a more likely story than the elastic exercise band yarn," Hinderaker wrote. "That seems like a question worth exploring, and yet, to my knowledge, not a single investigative reporter has chosen to look into the matter, even with the obvious clue of Reid’s face in front of them."
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