During an October 12 speech in Flint, Michigan, Vice President Joe Biden said that failing to pass the president's stimulus bill would lead to more rapes and murders. Biden repeated this claim during an October 18 event in Philadelphia.
"The other thing I've hear from my friends who oppose this--this whole jobs bill--[is] that this is just temporary," Biden said. "Well let me tell you, it's not temporary when that 911 call comes in and a woman's being raped, if a cop shows up in time to prevent the rape. It's not temporary to that woman. It's not temporary to the guy whose store is being held up and there's a gun pointed at his head, if a cop shows up and he's not killed. That's not temporary to that store owner. Give me a break! Temporary.’”
Biden's remarks were outlandish and absurd. State governments can cut other spending if they need more funds for police officers (as was the case in Wisconsin). And it's debatable whether fewer police actually leads to more rapes.
The vice president's vicious attack on Republicans drew attention mostly from conservative blogs. It wasn't until October 19, when Jason Mattera of Human Events questioned Biden in the U.S. Capitol about his remarks, that the vice president's "rape" comments were widely reported by the mainstream media.
Following the Biden-Mattera encounter, the Washington Post's "Fact Checker" Glenn Kessler took a look at Biden's claim and called it "absurd."
"[T]he vice president should know better than to spout off half-baked facts in service of a dubious argument," wrote Kessler. "Even if one believes there is a link between crime and the number of police—which is debatable and subject to many caveats—there is no excuse to make the dramatic claim that more people will die or be raped without additional funds for police."
Rather than apologize for his false and malicious attack, Biden is now going after the conservative reporter. The Hill reports:
Joe Biden’s office has complained to the Senate press gallery about a confrontation the vice president had with a conservative journalist last week on Capitol Hill.
Biden aides asked whether Senate rules were broken in the wake of the contentious exchange between the vice president and the reporter....
Biden’s office has also contacted the standing committee of correspondents, which oversees the gallery, regarding whether Mattera broke the rules by ambushing him.
Dave Weigel has just the right response:
The case [against Mattera] is thin. Mattera was not as up-front as he's been in other videos. As you can clearly see, he gets close to the VP not by asking a question and saying where he's from, but by getting into a photo-op. "Mr. Vice President," he says. "Picture?" Once Mattera's got Biden he starts asking him a well-formulated question: "Do you regret using a rape reference to describe Republican opposition to the jobs bill?" Biden's "don't screw around" comment, which led the stories about this, might be a reference to the tactic. And yeah, the tactic is unfair. Most reporters are anonymous enough that, if they felt like it, they could sidle up to a politician in congressional offices, they could ask them questions without announcing that they were with the press. The answers they'd get might be different than the ones they get after they announce themselves as reporters.*
But that's really the only hit on Mattera here. There are rules governing film in the Capitol, but not in the office where this was filmed. There are places where non-journalists and non-staffers can't go, like the Speaker's lobby outside the House, or the halls outside the Senate -- the places where most reporters grab members and senators for quotes. But Mattera was next to reporters in a place where, technically, anyone could go. He ambushed the vice president, but his question could as well have come up at a press conference. And according to people who were there, Mattera did have credentials. (In a hurry, you could mistake a Hill press pass for a tourist badge, but it's a stretch.) Let's rap Mattera gently on the knuckles for pretending he just wanted a photo with Biden, but let's not pretend the question or the setting was unfair to the vice president.
The dust-up between Mattera and Biden wouldn't have happened if the mainstream press had done their jobs in the week following Biden's Flint, Michigan speech. If Vice President Cheney had made a similar argument against Democrats, you can be sure we wouldn't have needed to wait a week for a left-wing blogger to challenge him.