Texas police: You'd better believe Beto tried to flee his DUI wreck

Remember this old saw from Watergate? It’s not the crime, it’s the cover-up. In this case, it’s the modified limited hangout from Robert “Beto” O’Rourke and his DUI from twenty-one years ago. O’Rourke has long acknowledged driving drunk in 1998, but he has insisted since launching his run for Ted Cruz’ Senate seat that he didn’t try to flee from police after crashing his vehicle. At one point, O’Rourke claimed that the other driver involved in the accident corroborated his account.

The police officers who respond beg to differ. The Texas Tribune dug around and found both cops and their sergeant, all three of whom stand by the description in the original report on O’Rourke’s arrest:

The former police officer who arrested Beto O’Rourke for driving drunk in 1998, along with the sergeant who signed the incident report, both say they believe now what they reported at the time: that O’Rourke tried to leave the scene of the wreck he caused. …

Neither the investigating officer, Richard Carrera, nor his former supervisor, Gary Hargrove, specifically recalls the events of that night more than 20 years ago. But both of the former Anthony Police Department officers told The Texas Tribune they have no doubt the report they compiled and signed is accurate.

“I believe we have contradicting stories here,” said Carrera, who arrested the 26-year-old O’Rourke and took him to a police station to undergo a breath test. “I stand by my report.”

Carrera, 49, said after reading the police report, in which an unnamed witness claimed O’Rourke tried to flee in his Volvo, he has “no doubt that he tried to leave the scene.”

O’Rourke keeps trying to put this to bed, but it keeps coming back because of his denials. When challenged during a debate with Cruz last September, O’Rourke insisted that “I did not try to leave the scene of the accident,” while admitting to the “terrible mistake” of driving drunk. Washington Post fact-checker Glenn Kessler dropped four Pinocchios on that claim, with a suggestion that O’Rourke’s memory may have been clouded by the alcohol:

At The Fact Checker, we place a high value on contemporaneous records. The police reports show not only that O’Rourke was highly intoxicated but that a witness to the crash said he tried to leave the scene.

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. Even if one is inclined to dismiss police reports as riddled with errors, it is the one contemporary record we have.

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.

Kessler hasn’t let it go at that. He has updated this post occasionally to address more of O’Rourke’s arguments, including an update today to address the Texas Tribune story. So far, it’s not changing Kessler’s assessment of O’Rourke’s claim, unless it’s to fortify it.

Why bother flogging this modified limited hangout at all? The DWI was old news even during O’Rourke’s run at Cruz’ seat, and a full and undisputed apology would have neutered the issue. Perhaps O’Rourke is concerned over the political damage that such a display of cowardice could create, but if he was that drunk, there’s a handy excuse for it if not an explanation. (Stephen Green quipped at Instapundit: “Looks like Bobby, runs like Ted.”) Instead, O’Rourke keeps making this issue fresh with every denial that cuts against all the available evidence, and adds the issue of dishonesty to the problem as well. Take Kessler’s suggestion and chalk it up to bad memory and move on.