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April 02, 2015

Conservative blogger floats conspiracy theory on Harry Reid's injury

In January, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) sustained several injuries from a piece of exercise equipment. A resistance band he had been using snapped, leaving him with a badly injured right eye and four broken ribs. 

While this may seem like old news, it didn't stop several Conservative bloggers from reacting to the 75-year-old Reid's announcement Friday that he will not seek re-election in 2016 by floating a conspiracy theory this week suggesting more nefarious reasons behind the injuries.

It started with a post from John Hinderaker of the Power Line blog. Hinderaker claims a friend told him that the real reason behind Reid's injuries may have been due to a failure to deliver on promises to the mob in Las Vegas. This led to mob leaders beating up the senator, something the source supposedly heard in varying forms from several people in Las Vegas. The post was a follow-up on previous speculation by Hinderaker in January. 

The lawyer and blogger avoids endorsing the theory, but does make a point to note that he doesn't believe Reid's injuries were caused by the exercise equipment. Rush Limbaugh fueled the fire, not mentioning the mob but airing the possibility that he had been beaten up. Adding to the speculation, the Washington Examiner's chief political correspondent Byron York gave the theory some legs in a tweet:

The theory has since been attacked by several journalists and bloggers. Steve Benen, producer for the left-leaning Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC, categorized the theory as a baseless one from the conservative media. David Weiberg of Bloomberg points out that Hinderaker's suggestion that the media hasn't pursued the story fully doesn't add up:

There is, indeed, no evidence that mobsters actually broke through Reid's security detail and worked him over. But there is evidence that reporters were asking questions.
"Here's what I was able to piece together from people who should know," says Jon Ralston, a Nevada reporter who has covered Reid for years. "Reid is a fitness nut. He had just moved into his new Vegas house, and didn't have a place to do his band routine. So he attached it to something in his bathroom, which was a very dumb thing to do, it turns out. The whole mobster thing is just insane. Not just because there is no evidence, but it makes no sense."

Dick Polman of Newsworks' National Interest blog shared a similar sentiment. He says that while some in the mainstream media failed to properly address Reid's false claims about Mitt Romney's supposed tax evasion back in 2012, that doesn't give credence to the mob rumors. Polman believes the traction this insinuation has gotten speaks to a deeper issue in modern media:

Whatever the faults of the mainstream media - and we all have our complaints - at least there was a time, not long ago, when editors ensured that unverified speculation of this magnitude never saw the light of day. But here in the 21st century, there are no gatekeepers. Alas, there is only the open sewer.

Despite the vague rumor gaining some mainstream attention, there have been (as pointed out by Weiberg) no credible reports to back it. But that didn't stop Reid's senior adviser, Faiz Shakir, from having some fun with the theory on Twitter:

Reid dismissed the claims in an interview with CBS Las Vegas: