Greg Sargent gets Eric Cantor's defense (or at least, Cantor's attempt at a defense):
A spokesperson for Eric Cantor is pushing back on criticism that he shouldn’t have referenced the bullet shot through a campaign office window at a presser yesterday about threats on his life, offering a detailed chronology of what happened.
Richmond police announced this morning that the bullet was an "act of random gunfire," leading critics to say Cantor had jumped the gun in sharing the story yesterday.
But Cantor spokesperson Brad Dayspring, in an interview with me this afternoon, offered a chronology of events. Short version: When Cantor gave his statement, all he knew was that a bullet had been fired into his window, there was an ongoing investigation into the incident, and that he had received other threats on his life.
Basically, Cantor's office is defending itself by saying that they had no idea what the facts were. The problem is, in his statement to the national press corp, Cantor was emphatic in his certainty that he had been the target of a shooting incident:
Just recently, I have been directly threatened. A bullet was shot through the window of my campaign office in Richmond this week and I’ve received threatening emails.
Obviously, the claim that a gunman (presumably pro-reform) has targeted your campaign office is incendiary. It's the type of claim that you need to be sure about before you make it. If you don't know the facts, it's incredibly irresponsible to make such a claim. And when you're making it in the context of a political attack on your opponents, it represents dishonesty in the extreme.
On those grounds alone, Cantor's statement was an extraordinary breech of the public trust. But the facts of the matter reveal that what he did was even worse.
First, Cantor was fully aware that the gunshot may have been random. Although he did not say this to the national media, he told a local newspaper that he wasn't sure if the gunfire was random or not. (CNN reported this, to its credit.) So Cantor knew that his statement might have been untrue -- and yet he made it anyway.
Moreover, Cantor was also fully aware that the bullet didn't actually hit his campaign office. It hit an office in the same building as one of his campaign offices.
Finally, there's virtually no way somebody would ever have targeted that particular office if they were going after Cantor. For starters, neither his campaign site nor his official site list the building as his campaign office. The building itself does not have any markings to suggest that it housed his campaign office. And if all that weren't enough, the office isn't even located in his congressional district.
When Eric Cantor made his statement, he was fully aware of each of these facts -- but he proceeded forth, because he thought it made good political sense, truth be damned. He's receiving heavy criticism for that decision today -- as well he should.
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