DeLay Cuts Off Ethics Questions
After weeks of intense media scrutiny over a host of ethics issues, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) told reporters Wednesday that he would no longer answer their questions on those subjects.
At his weekly “pen and pad” session, DeLay told a standing-room-only media crowd in his office conference room that the purpose of such briefings is to address issues related to the legislative agenda, not what he called “the Democrats’ agenda” of attacks and corruption allegations against him.
“I know the left and the Democrats and [the] media want me to address other matters, but I will not do that,” DeLay said.
DeLay said that in the future he would no longer address any questions outside the “scope” of those parameters, and he suggested that he might not hold the briefings anymore if reporters don’t respect the new rules.
In recent months DeLay has frequently discussed at his press briefings such subjects as his controversial foreign trips and his relationship with scandal-tarred lobbyist Jack Abramoff. DeLay has also regularly excoriated Democrats for their criticism of him.
Yet on Wednesday, when a reporter asked DeLay why he was changing his policy on what questions he would answer, DeLay snapped back, “This is not a change in policy,” adding that the reporter who asked the question “must not be a regular attendee” at the briefings.
While the Majority Leader was combative about the purpose of his pen and pads, he sounded a rare note of contrition regarding his past comments about the Terry Schiavo case.
After Schiavo died earlier this month, DeLay lashed out at the judges who handled the case, saying, “the time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior.”
Those comments drew criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike, and DeLay admitted Wednesday that he should have chosen his words differently.
“I could concede that point,” DeLay said. “Sometimes I get a little passionate in the heat of the moment. … I am sorry I said it that way and I shouldn’t have.”
DeLay attempted to clarify his comments by saying, “I believe in an independent judiciary. I repeat: I believe in an independent judiciary.”
Later in the session, when he was asked by a reporter to square that statement with his criticism of federal judges, DeLay offered to give the reporter a copy of the Constitution.