How Reid Reacted When a Republican Senator Was Indicted

by Nathan L. Gonzales April 3, 2015 · 9:00 AM EDT

After New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez was indicted on corruption charges Wednesday, Minority Leader Harry Reid’s reaction to his colleague’s situation wasn’t particularly surprising, but it’s not because Menendez is a fellow Democrat.

“I appreciate Senator Menendez’s willingness to temporarily step down as ranking member,” the Nevada Democrat said in a statement. “He has been a consistent champion for the middle class.

“As I have said about both Democrats and Republicans, our justice system is premised on the principle of innocent until proven guilty and Senator Menendez should not be judged until he has his day in court.”

But has Reid actually responded to Republican indictments the same way, as he claimed on Wednesday?

Yes, and a prime example comes from 2008, when Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, was indicted on corruption charges in the middle of a competitive re-election race that could have expanded Reid’s Senate majority at the time.

Reid’s reaction might surprise you, unless you believed his statement from Wednesday.

“I, of course, have served with Sen. Stevens my entire congressional career,” Reid said. “It’s a sad day for him, us. But I believe in the American system of justice that he is presumed innocent.”

“As far as what’s going to happen in the Republican caucus, that’s up to them. … How they handle Stevens is certainly up to them,” Reid continued. “It is not our responsibility. I’ll cooperate in any way that I can.”

Stevens was convicted just days prior to the election, which he lost to Democrat Mark Begich by just more than a point. The verdict was eventually set aside and the indictment dismissed.

Even though Reid will never be remembered as a symbol of bipartisanship, his similar initial reaction to Democrats and Republicans in legal trouble is remarkable.