Opinion: How the Kevin McCarthy rumors spread

The following is an opinion column written by Howard Kurtz, a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET).

What happened to Kevin McCarthy is disgraceful.

I’m not talking about the congressman feeling pressured into withdrawing from the speaker’s race—that’s politics. Even as a majority leader with a big edge, he didn’t feel he could unite the fractious Republican caucus and would probably have suffered the same frustrations as John Boehner had he eked out a win. And McCarthy admits he hurt himself with his tone-deaf comments about how the Benghazi committee had knocked down Hillary’s poll numbers, making the whole enterprise look political.

No, it’s the fact that McCarthy is battling unproven rumors that he had an affair, rumors that the media should never have made public. And the same goes for Renee Ellmers, the North Carolina congresswoman who has dismissed the allegations as totally false.

Once upon a time, media outlets didn’t report such matters without something resembling proof—an on-the-record accusation, emails, photos, divorce documents and the like. But this was a classic whispering campaign.

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