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UPDATE: The Daily Caller's Tucker Carlson has responded to the criticisms, and isn't giving ground. The Daily Caller, he points out, never specifically claimed that Steele himself visited the establishment. "How and why was RNC business conducted in a bondage-themed nightclub, and how and why were the nearly $2,000 in charges that resulted approved by RNC staff?" Carlson says that question remains unanswered. If the RNC would care to provide the information, he continues, The Daily Caller will publish it "immediately."
The political blogosphere exploded early this morning with a report that RNC chairman Michael Steele blew committee money on a "bondage-themed nightclub." The Daily Caller broke the news in a story on Steele's lavish spending, noting that
A February RNC trip to California, for example, included a $9,099 stop at the Beverly Hills Hotel, $6,596 dropped at the nearby Four Seasons, and $1,620.71 spent [update: the amount is actually $1,946.25] at Voyeur West Hollywood, a bondage-themed nightclub featuring topless women dancers imitating lesbian sex.
The RNC, though, contacted
by the National Review, says these expenses were actually "a reimbursement made to a non-committee staffer," not Steele--who never knew about and was not at "the location in question." The RNC spokesman hit back at The Daily Caller, in fact, saying that "good reporting would make that distinction crystal clear." So what's actually going on here? The story's still emerging, but strong words are already zipping around the usual political blogging hubs.
- The Daily Caller Is a Disgrace "Someone should take Tucker Carlson's bow tie and shove it down his throat," writes an irate Dan Riehl, prominent conservative blogger, "provided they can get the silver spoon out of his mouth long enough. The Daily Caller is his rag, after all." The publication leans right, and Riehl isn't happy with the mindless "backstabbing," though he says the record will be set straight "assuming actual journalists get involved."
- 'Say What???' The Guardian's Michael Tomasky has a different problem with the article (pre-RNC statement): the Caller's decision to bury the bit about lesbian bondage down in the sixth paragraph. "Shouldn't this have been a little higher up in the story?" wonders a gobsmacked Tomasky. "If the DNC chair did this, the right-wing agitprop machine would be all over it and he'd be resigning by the end of the day."
- Could This Be the Last Straw for Steele? wonders The Atlantic Journal-Constitution's Jay Bookman, apparently before the RNC correction hit the Internet. Steele has survived countless blunders, but Bookman suggests he may now have "run out of lives."
- Even If This Wasn't Steele... "The party has not yet disputed the other expenditures" in the story, notes liberal Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly.
- No Kidding "It's still unknown," writes Greg Sargent, "who the 'non-committee staffer' is who spent this money, how this happened, and what the reaction of GOP donors will be to the RNC's explanation."
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