Today, amid the warblogging going on between The Daily Caller and the Washington Post over who has the most reliably sourced story on the alleged encounter between New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and prostitutes from the Dominican Republic, comes the revelation that ABC News was given a crack at the story and passed because it didn't pass a cursory sniff test -- for a lot of perfectly acceptable reasons. Dave Weigel summarizes this wrinkle in the story the best:
It's a Rorschach test, isn't it? If you don't trust the Liberal Media, you assume that the Menendez story stayed stuck in the Undernews because reporters covered it up. If you trust Occam's razor, you ask why any reporters would give up a story that could bring down a senator, ask in particular why Brian Ross would (he broke the Jeremiah Wright story in 2008, when it could have brought down Barack Obama), and whether ABC News killed the story because it didn't pass scrutiny.
Makes sense to me. That said, one detail from ABC News' own report on the matter caught my eye.
Her account of sex with Menendez in the video interview was almost word-for-word the account given by two other women who were produced for interviews about having sex with the man they knew only as "Bob."
Asked during the interview with ABC News how she knew that the man named "Bob" was a United States Senator, one of the other women said she had put the name "Bob" into a web search site and a picture of Menendez popped up.
The way this information is presented in the story suggests that the web search claim is part of what made this story implausible for ABC News. And at first blush, it doesn't sound like an effective way of identifying the gentleman with whom you've allegedly had sexual congress. But must we make fun of this woman for seeming unsophisticated in her Internet sleuthing? What if that's a perfectly possible way to find Bob Menendez's visage? To answer that question, I decided to risk muddying the waters and reality-test this contention, by placing "Bob" into the Google Image Search engine and seeing what it brought back.
- Bob Marley
- Bob Mansfield, Apple's senior vice president of Technologies (impressive placement, Apple!)
- the "long bob hairstyle"
- J. R. "Bob" Dobbs, mythical figure at the center of the Church of the SubGenius (impressive placement, Church of the Subgenius!)
- Bobby Ray, rapper
- Bob Goldstein, UNC biology department
- Bob Filner, mayor of San Diego
- Bob Kevoian, radio host
- Bob Pease, analog engineering legend
- Christina Aguilera
- Bob Blue, "songwriter and semi-retired schoolteacher"
- Bob the Builder, builder
- Bob Saget
- Bob Hicok of the Poetry Foundation
- Bob Moritz, chairman and senior partner, PWC
- Bob Miyamoto, affiliate associate professor, Electrical Engineering, University of Washington
- Bob Cryan, vice-chancellor, University of Huddersfield
- Bob Bland, fashion designer, serial entrepreneur and community art advocate
- Chelsea Kane
- Bob Bryan, tennis pro
- Bob Lenz, founder and president of Life Promotions and Lifest
- Victoria Beckham
- Bob Chilcott, composer
- many more Bobs, including Bob Dylan, Bob McDonnell, Bob Ross, Bob Costas, Bob Woodward, Bob Hoskins, Bob Barr, Bob Hope, Bob Dole, Bob Schieffer, Bob Barker and Bob Casey
- many other people with "bob" hairstyles
- many other Bobs I don't recognize; sorry I'm getting bored now and you are probably already bored, so let's smash cut to the exciting climax
Finally, coming in as the 236th result, you have Bob Menendez. That's a ways down the page, but here's the thing: If you have just a minimum amount of sticktoitiveness, it really doesn't take very long. (Plus, you probably would know if Zombie Bob Marley engaged your services as a prostitute, I'm guessing.)
Naturally, Google's search returns have a sort of quantum mechanics, in which more relevant results get pushed to the top of the page. So it's fair to wonder if the relative ease by which I found a picture of Menendez is related to the ongoing attention he's received as a result of this scandal-story and the ongoing, concomitant speculation. Nevertheless, if you're willing to invest the time, you can do it.
Look, I don't doubt that ABC News had plenty of good reasons to doubt the credibility of this story. But the example of this alleged internet search -- which gets over on the implied judgment that this Dominican woman is terribly unsophisticated -- is actually perfectly plausible! Let this be a warning to all famous, living Bobs. (You dead Bobs are in the clear.) (Probably!)
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