Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell was duped by an Onion-like article, going so far as to write a letter about the circumstances reported upon in the satire site’s humorous offerings after reading that the Obama administration had plans to “[allow] the detainees to use the Department of Veterans Affairs,” with hopes “to completely crush their souls with bureaucracy.”
Mitch McConnell isn’t the first person to fall for an Onion bit, this one from The Duffel Blog, but he may be the only one to go so far as to write a letter to Elizabeth King, the Pentagon’s congressional liaison.
Tech mag Wired reveals that McConnell’s “unusually credulous query” came via a constituent of the senator, but it would appear his office did little to even engage in the smallest bit of fact-checking before bothering the federal government with internet jokes. The site quotes the letter from McConnell asking about Gitmo detainees receiving VA benefits:
“I am writing on behalf of a constituent who has contacted me regarding Guantanamo Bay prisoners receiving Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits … I would appreciate your review and response to my constituent’s concerns.”
Wired admits that federal waste and questionable programs are certainly an issue, but that McConnell’s letter stretches the bounds of reasonable curiosity:
“The Defense Department does a lot of inexplicable things at Guantanamo Bay — there’s a resume-building workshop for detainees, for real — but paying detainees GI Bill benefits is not one of them. ‘The very idea that the U.S. government would extend GI Bill benefits to enemy detainees is a patent absurdity,’ says Army Lt. Col. Todd Breasseale, the Pentagon’s spokesman on all matters Guantanamo.”
Mitch McConnell’s satire-inspired letter to the Pentagon calls to mind another such incident with a Kentucky senator recently — when Sen. Rand Paul, also a Repblican, asked Hillary Clinton about supplying arms to Turkey, allegedly inspired by conservative talk show speculation.
Comedian Bill Maher later quipped on his show Real Time of Paul’s admission that his query, like McConnell’s, stemmed from no credible evidence:
“In other words, this is just a bunch of horse s*** I heard on TV that I’m going to bring into the United States Senate …
McConnell’s office addressed the criticism, deflecting criticism by saying:
“The senator’s office had a request from a constituent asking us to inquire about an issue … Our office forwarded the constituent’s question to the Defense Department.”
However, one might argue that a decent starting point for eliminating government spending, as Mitch McConnell has advocated, would be not wasting time by initiating such a query before yourself investigating it.