After Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-TX) stated in last Friday’s debate with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) that he did not leave the scene of a car accident he caused in 1998, The Washington Post decided to have their fact-checker, Glenn Kessler, investigate the veracity of O’ Rourke’s claim.
The result: Four Pinocchios.
O’Rourke stated, “I did not try to leave the scene of the accident, though driving drunk, which I did, is a terrible mistake for which there is no excuse or justification or defense, and I will not try to provide one.”
As Kessler noted, “The Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News had recently obtained police reports of the collision and reported that O’Rourke had done so.” Kessler added that after O’Rourke made that specious claim, he “segued into a riff about the importance of second chances.”
Kessler quoted from the police reports that at roughly 3 a.m. on September 27, 1998, in Anthony, Texas, police officer Richard Carrera was dispatched to the scene of the collision on Interstate 10 about a mile from the border with New Mexico. Carrera met Robert Francis O’Rourke and asked him what happened: while charging O’Rourke with driving while intoxicated, Carrera wrote in his complaint, “The defendant advised in a slurred speech that he had caused an accident.”
Kessler quoted another report filed with the Texas Department of Public Safety, in which Carrera wrote 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.” Asked to step out of the vehicle, O’Rourke “almost fell to the floor.” When he blew into a breathalyzer, his blood alcohol content was 0.136 and 0.134, over the legal limit of 0.10.
Kessler noted, “For a male of 190 pounds, O’Rourke’s weight as listed in the police report, that blood alcohol concentration is reached after six drinks … In his DWI interview, O’Rourke said he last ate at 7 p.m. — pasta — and consumed two beers.”
A witness informed Carrera that O’Rourke’s Volvo passed him at high speed through a 70 mph zone and then lost control and “struck a truck traveling the same direction.” The Volvo crossed the center median and came to a stop. Carrera wrote, “The defendant/driver then attempted to leave the scene. The reporter then turned on his overhead lights to warn oncoming traffic and try to get the defendant to stop.” The incident and crime report stated: “The driver attempted to leave the accident but was stopped by the reporter.”
Kessler wrote that some readers said the Post could “not rely on police reports because they often have incomplete and contradictory information.” Kessler noted that when the Post gave the O’Rourke campaign the chance to set the record straight, there was no response.
Kessler concluded, “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 … 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 … he earns Four Pinocchios.”