Unexamined Premises

Vegas Prankster Fingers Larry Reid for Harry's Injuries, Apologizes, then Blames Conservative Media for Believing Him


Wha’ happen?

Word is out, as Harry Reid might say, that the soon-to-be-former senator’s explanation of the serious injuries he sustained in an “exercise accident” on New Year’s Day is bunk. One prima facie proof is that the soon-to-be-former senator has yet to identify the maker of the equipment that robbed him of the sight in one eye, busted him in the mouth and damaged several ribs. Nor to my knowledge has he sued the alleged manufacturer, which is normally the first thing a Democrat would do; additionally, the soon-to-be-former senator has given varying and contradictory accounts of what happened to him, and why he suddenly decided not to seek re-election. It’s all very hinky.

Acting on a phone tip, John Hinderaker of Power Line wrote that the culprit behind the beatdown might have been the soon-to-be-former senator’s brother, Larry Reid. (In the course of citing Larry Reid’s recent arrest for assaulting a cop, I referenced Hinderaker’s post here, since I too believe that the soon-to-be-former senator has not come clean about what really happened that night.) That report, however, turned out to be “prank” by a man using a false name, according to the Las Vegas Sun, Reid’s home-town newspaper — one designed to highlight the gullibility of the conservative media, especially Rush Limbaugh:

A Las Vegas man claims he started a false rumor that the injuries suffered by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid several months ago were the result of an attack by Reid’s brother, not an exercise accident.

Larry Pfeifer, a 50-year-old former consultant in the nightclub and entertainment industry, said he fabricated the story after becoming appalled that right-wing political blogger John Hinderaker published a rumor that Reid’s injuries stemmed from an assault by a Mafia enforcer. Pfeifer said he pitched his fake story about the Reid brothers’ supposed fight to Hinderaker, author of the Power Line blog, to test whether the blogger would publish it, as well. When Hinderaker reported it and the rumor was subsequently spread by others in conservative media, Pfeifer says he began plotting to self-report it as a lie to show the lack of credibility and journalistic standards among partisan media figures.

“It was just so outrageous,” he said. “The fact that someone can say something completely false that can destroy somebody’s life, it’s just wrong. Where’s the moral compass?”

Pfeifer, who describes himself as a motivational speaker who is involved in addiction counseling, said he completely concocted the story that Reid’s brother, Larry, showed up intoxicated at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on New Year’s Eve in Henderson and claimed to have beaten up a relative.

He might better address that “moral compass” question to himself. Hinderaker clearly labeled the account of “Easton Elliott” (the false name Pfeifer provided) of the AA meeting, which was offered in apparent good faith, as speculative: “I, of course, couldn’t vouch for the veracity of Elliott’s story, and I didn’t. In the linked post I wrote: ‘That is Easton Elliott’s account. I can’t vouch for it, of course….’ Later, I said: ‘Is Easton Elliott telling the truth? I have absolutely no idea.’ But I did check him out to the extent reasonably possible. Among other things, that included spending a couple of hours with him in multiple telephone conversations. He told his story consistently and with seeming sincerity, and swore repeatedly that it was true.”

You can read Hinderaker’s complete pantsing of Larry Pfeifer here.

The Sun has a little more background on Pfeifer and his aims in lying about Larry Reid. Note, by the way, the strangely sympathetic, more-in-sorrow-than-in-anger tone the newspaper takes on Pfeifer’s behalf:

In coming forward, Pfeifer said he expected to encounter skepticism about whether he truly was the source of the rumor and whether he made up the story. A convicted felon who was sentenced to prison for financial crimes in the early 1990s, he offered dozens of emails and recordings as verification of his claim. He said he was not pressured to debunk the rumor and had never met Harry Reid or anyone in his family.

A rumor that Pfeifer himself started…

Pfeifer said he felt guilty for bringing unwanted attention to Larry Reid and for any harm he might have caused to the Reid family. “I would really like to apologize to Harry Reid and his brother. What I did was (expletive) up,” Pfeifer said.

Pfeifer said he encountered several reporters who acted responsibly, both while he was spreading the rumor and after he decided to blow the whistle on himself. The Sun demanded that Pfeifer reveal his legal name and show his driver’s license, then ran a public records check on him to verify his identity.

One might here note that the Sun demanded proof of the “former consultant in the nightclub and entertainment industry’s” identity only after he had outed himself:

Pfeifer said he tried to get on Limbaugh’s show, where he planned to admit he’d made up the story. “I thought the whole thing would be over in a day and a half,” he said. “I wasn’t after 15 minutes of fame. I wanted a platform where I could present this as what it was and 2 million people would pick up on it.” He said he decided to present the truth after Limbaugh rejected him as a guest but repeated the rumor April 15 on his talk-radio show. Neither Limbaugh nor Hinderaker presented the story as fact, and both told their audience to take it for what it was worth…

Now, Pfeifer is hoping his story goes viral and leads to appearances in national media to speak out about irresponsible partisan media. “Why are people so bloodthirsty?” Pfeifer said. “We’re all supposed to be good neighbors. Harry Reid’s a human being. If a complete stranger we knew was injured, wouldn’t we be concerned?

Gee, I dunno. Let’s ask Harry Reid.

All we’re asking is: let Harry Reid prove that it indeed was an exercise accident. Because he hasn’t.

Worth recalling what the late Ben Bradlee said about the relationship of liars and journalists:

Newspapers don’t tell the truth under many different, and occasionally innocent, scenarios. Mostly when they don’t know the truth. Or when they quote someone who does not know the truth. And more and more, when they quote someone who is spinning the truth, shaping it to some preconceived version of a story that is supposed to be somehow better than the truth, omitting details that could be embarrassing.

And finally, when they quote someone who is flat-out lying. There is a lot of spinning and a lot of lying in our times — in politics, in government, in sports and everywhere. It’s gotten to a point where, if you are like me, you no longer believe the first version of anything…

Remember, Walter Lippmann was right so many years ago when he wrote that, in a democracy, the truth and nothing but the truth are rarely available immediately.

Let’s give Power Line and Hinderaker the last word:

Which leaves us with what I have said in my five posts on Harry Reid’s bizarre New Year’s incident: 1) It is highly unlikely that a breaking or slipping elastic exercise band could cause the severe injuries that Reid sustained. 2) Anyone looking at Reid in the aftermath of the incident would say that he appeared to have been beaten up, although it is also possible that he could have been injured in, say, an automobile accident. 3) Reid has changed his story on what happened, apparently to explain why he hasn’t issued a product liability warning in connection with the (probably fictitious) exercise band. 4) We don’t know basic facts about the incident, such as the time of day when it occurred. If it was in the middle of the night, it is highly unlikely that Reid was exercising. 5) As far as I know, no journalist has conducted even a primitive investigation into the incident. Our compliant media have simply accepted an account, propagated by Reid and his minions, that is implausible at best.

Someday the truth about Reid’s injuries, which may or may not be related to his surprise decision to retire from the Senate, may come out. But that will only happen if one or more journalists gets serious about investigating the incident, rather than allowing Reid to sweep it under the rug.

UPDATE: Speaking of journalistic standards: the Las Vegas Sun article was written by Ric Anderson, the Sun’s Managing Editor. Even though the principal point of his article was to criticize me, Anderson did not contact me prior to publishing the article to ask whether the story Pfeifer told him was correct. This omission is particularly remarkable, given that Pfeifer described himself to Anderson as a liar. Yesterday I sent Anderson a link to this post, with a message along the lines of, “You should have contacted me before publishing the Lawrence Pfeifer article. Pfeifer lied to you, too.”

I, on the other hand, did give Harry Reid’s office an opportunity to comment on Pfeifer/Elliott’s account before posting it. Reid’s office responded irrelevantly, neither confirming nor denying Pfeifer’s story.

There really is no low to which these people will not stoop.