The Washington Post’s fact checker gave Democratic Senate challenger Beto O’Rourke a Texas-sized rating for evading the truth in evaluating his claim that he did not try to leave the scene of a 1998 auto accident.
O’Rourke is battling Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in a highly competitive race. Cruz leads O’Rourke by 4.5 percent points according to the Real Clear Politics average of polls, but one poll has the margin as tight as 1 percentage point.
In August, the Houston Chronicle reported that O’Rouke’s 1998 accident, which he has admitted took place, was “a more serious threat to public safety than has previously been reported.”
A Texas Department of Public Safety report from 1998 said that after O’Rourke hit a truck, he tried to leave the scene of the accident “but was stopped by the same motorist he had just passed.”
The motorist, who was not named, “then turned on his overhead lights to warn oncoming traffic and to try to get the defendant (O’Rourke) to stop,” the report said.
But during a debate Friday with Cruz, O’Rourke offered a different version of events.
“I did not try to leave the scene of the accident,” O’Rourke said, the Dallas Morning News reported.
In assessing O’Rourke’s denials, the Post’s fact-checker examined a September 1998 report from police officer Richard Carrera.
“The defendant/driver then attempted to leave the scene,” Carrera reported, according to The Post. “The reporter then turned on his overhead lights to warn oncoming traffic and try to get the defendant to stop.”
O’Rourke was also drunk at the time of the accident.
A report on the accident said that the “defendant was unable to be understood due to slurred speech” and that he had “glossy eyes” and “breath that smelled of an alcohol beverage.”
O’Rourke “almost fell to the floor” when asked to step out of the car, the report said and when given a balance test “failed by totally losing his balance.”
The Post said the evidence from 1998 makes it hard to support O’Rourke’s claim from Friday’s debate.
“O’Rourke was so drunk that he could barely get out of the car without falling, so perhaps he would not have gotten far — or he was simply confused. Perhaps in his memory, O’Rourke believes he did not try to leave. But, given his blood alcohol content at the time of the crash, O’Rourke’s memory 20 years after the fact is not nearly as credible as the police reports written just hours after the crash,” The Post wrote.
“O’Rourke could have dodged the question during the debate or he could have said his memory of the night is not clear. Instead, he chose to dispute the factual record. We also believe in second chances, and O’Rourke should revise his answer if given another opportunity. In the meantime, he earns four Pinocchios,” The Post wrote.
A rating of four Pinocchios is the fact checker’s top rating for lack of truth in a politician’s claim.
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