Reports of Leahy’s Death Discounted

Posted July 6, 2010 at 4:08pm

Updated: July 6, 7:53 p.m.

He may have been giving an interview to Vermont Public Radio on Tuesday afternoon, but according to an e-mail sent to several media outlets, Sen. Patrick Leahy died around noon.

The hoax e-mail proclaiming the Vermont Democrat’s death by liver cancer was sent to several news outlets, according to reports, including WTOP and PBS’ “News Hour,” which promptly tweeted about it. The offices of Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) reported similar e-mails falsely reporting the deaths of those lawmakers.

Leahy, the 70-year-old chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which had just wrapped up Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Solicitor General Elena Kagan, is alive and well, according to his spokesman David Carle.

Carle said the e-mail was sent from outside the office by someone who spoofed the office’s e-mail address.

“We’ve asked the Capitol Police to see if they can determine how official Senate addresses can be spoofed in this way,” Carle said.

He added that over the weekend, Feinstein’s office had to contend with “the same release just changing the names and spoofing the office.”

“Their press secretary had to be up from 2 to 4 a.m. to counter it,” Carle added.

The California Democrat’s spokesman, Gil Duran, confirmed that an e-mail with the same text, except for the 77-year-old Senator’s name and age substituted for Leahy’s, was sent Sunday night.

“It was not sent from an existing e-mail,” Duran said. “Somebody spoofed a fake address.”

Duran said the same technology probably could be used to send potentially inflammatory statements out to reporters, but he added that most reporters would know to contact the office if the statement seemed off.

Lautenberg spokesman Caley Gray confirmed a similar hoax e-mail about the New Jersey Democrat, who recently completed treatment for lymphoma of the stomach and announced last month that he is free of cancer.

Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said the agency is investigating the e-mails.

WTOP reported that it received the note. According to the Washington, D.C.-area news radio station, the e-mail read:

“Dear WTOP News Team,

We are currently in the process of notifying media of the passing of US Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) earlier this afternoon at his home in Burlington. He was 70. Our statement to the media is below.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

WASHINGTON, DC

United States Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT.), who built a reputation as an independent voice in the Senate and for working with both Democrats and Republicans to find common-sense solutions to the problems facing Vermont and Washington, passed away of liver cancer at age 70 on Tuesday, July 6 at 12:52PM EST at his home in Burlington. The Democratic Senator, known best for his national security and economic initiatives in the Senate, will be missed by all Americans regardless of their political colors or creed.”