At about 3:35 yesterday afternoon, while I was on the air, an email came in advising me to call the emailer at my next break. I know that person to be a credible news source and a well-known and upstanding member of the community.
I was on the phone at the four o’clock news break.
At 4:05 I was on the air again, deftly trying to explain the gist of the story that I would try to confirm even though I was deep into my show.
The tip involved the latest televised political attack in the desperate race for the Democratic nomination for the newly expanded 17th Congressional District.
Twenty-year incumbent Tim Holden wants to be re-elected. Challenger Matt Cartwright wants to go to Washington, too.
Both sides admit that one-time underdog Cartwright is in the lead.
Even Holden supporter and former Congressman Chris Carney - like Holden, a conservative “blue dog” Democrat - admitted as much during a Saturday afternoon Holden campaign rally in Scranton.
The tip was ugly.
Holden was airing a campaign commercial that insinuated that Cartwright had contributed campaign cash to admitted criminal and former Luzerne County Judge Michael Toole, who is serving a federal prison sentence for political corruption, in exchange for a favorable medical malpractice verdict for a Cartwright client.
If true, Cartwright would have bribed a crooked judge.
Cartwright would have committed a crime.
Cartwright would have been in a position to be arrested and maybe go to jail.
But the ad was false, my source said.
The ad was a terrible lie.
Cartwright was livid, the source said.
I told my source that I needed Cartwright on the show as soon as possible. I emailed another source and made the same statement. Both sources said they’d see what they could do.
Cartwright called at 4:15.
Cartwright’s interview, which can be heard in the wilknewsradio.com “audio vault,” sent shockwaves through both campaigns.
Cartwright’s reputation was on the line. He said he would fight the scurrilous slander that Holden had authorized. Cartwright said he planned a press conference this morning on the steps of the Luzerne County Courthouse where Toole had betrayed the public trust by becoming a gangster judge.
As bad as the inference was for Cartwright, though, the accusation was worse for Cartwright’s client, who planned to appear with him at the press conference.
Doctors had diagnosed the woman with a serious form of cancer. She underwent 12 bouts of chemotherapy. She thought she would die. She said goodbye to her toddler children.
But the woman never had cancer.
After a month-long trial, a jury found in her favor and awarded her a sizable amount of money.
To infer that her lawyer had bribed a judge in exchange for a favorable verdict added to the woman’s already horrific experiences.
Holden’s TV commercial made no mention of the jury trial or the jury award. People who saw the commercial said the commercial accused Cartwright of giving a crooked judge money and that the judge presided over the trial and made the award himself.
That simply was not true.
That also is simply inexcusable.
I called Holden’s campaign and left a message – the fifth invitation, including two personal invites, in several weeks.
Holden failed to respond to my message.
Voters should fail to respond to his re-election bid.
We know all about life in the Northeastern Pennsylvania school of political hard knocks.
But Tim Holden is simply too damn mean for Congress