A Las Vegas man who concocted the story about Harry Reid getting injured in a brawl with his brother came forward over the weekend to confess that he made the whole story up. Larry Pfeifer, a convicted felon and former entertainment industry consultant, told reporters for the Las Vegas Sun that he invented the story to demonstrate the lack of credibility in the partisan media.
Pfeifer, using the pseudonym Easton Elliot, pitched his fabricated story to a number of media outlets. Pfeifer alleged that Harry Reid’s brother, Larry, showed up drunk at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting in Henderson, Nevada with an injured hand, claiming he had just beaten up a relative.
John Hinderaker, who writes for the right-wing blog “Powerline”, posted the story on April 3rd. The fabricated story quickly gained momentum in right-wing circles with Laura Ingraham, Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck, all spreading the phony account of how Harry Reid sustained his injuries.
Although Hinderaker did make a half-hearted disclaimer when he first published the bogus story, he quickly pivoted to chastising the mainstream media for not pursuing the story. In his blog he presented the information, in part, as follows:
That is Easton Elliott’s account. I can’t vouch for it, of course, but if what he says about the AA meeting is accurate, the inferences he draws seem reasonable.
Someone attacked Harry Reid on New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day; that much seems clear from photographs and from the nature of his injuries. So far, to my knowledge, no one has investigated to try to find out what really happened. My “investigation” consisted of answering my telephone. Perhaps those reporters who were so eager to dig through Sarah Palin’s dumpster and track down Mitt Romney’s high school classmates will now swing into action, carry out an actual investigation, and either confirm or refute the events described by Mr. Elliott.
From there, the account spread like wildfire through the right-wing media universe, catching hold with right-wing talk radio icons like Limbaugh, Beck and Ingraham. Apparently none of them showed much concern for vetting the source, or for verifying the accuracy of the fabricated “eyewitness account”. After all, it fit a narrative they were all too happy to promote. Therefore, it didn’t matter whether it was actually true or not.
Pfeifer also acknowledged over the weekend that several media outlets acted more responsibly than the right-wing sites that spread the story. For example, he pointed out that the Las Vegas Sun requested that Pfeifer provide them with his real name and a copy of his driver’s license so they could run a background check and confirm his identity. That proved a wise decision on their part, as unlike many of the partisan right-wing sites, the Las Vegas Sun escaped the whole fiasco without getting “egg on their face”.
Pfeifer’s actions certainly should not be condoned since he spread damaging lies about both Larry and Harry Reid that amount to character assassination. However, Pfeifer does not bear that responsibility alone. Right-wing media outlets that were overeager to slander the Nevada Senator also should be ashamed that they promoted his story without verifying any evidence to determine if the story were reasonably likely to be true. By failing to apply even the flimsiest of journalistic standards or ethics, the right-wing media has demonstrated once again that they are far too willing to sacrifice the truth, as long as it furthers their extremely narrow and petty partisan agenda.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.