Harry Reid’s Horse-Thief AncestorFiction!


Summary of eRumor:

This email claims that Judy Wallman, a genealogy researcher, discovered Senator Harry Reid had an ancestor who was hanged as a horse thief and bank robber in 1889.  It was his great-great uncle Remus Reid.  The only picture of him was one of him standing on the gallows just before he was hung and had an inscription on the back describing his crimes, capture, and execution.  The eRumor says that Wallman contacted Harry Reid’s office to inquire about great-great uncle Remus and their response was a sanitized version of his story that was expertly created by Reid’s image-makers.

The Truth:

This is not true just like it was not true about Hillary Clinton, Al Gore or George W. Bush.  The essence of this story is from an old piece of humorous writing that was designed to demonstrate how you can put “spin” on a negative story to make it sound positive. For example Remus fell off of a platform at a civic function instead of being hanged.  Someone altered the story to make it seem as though it was talking about an ancestor of Al Gore.  Then another version got started saying it was about an ancestor of Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush.  Now there is a version making the rounds saying it is about Senator Harry Reid.

updated 01/08/09

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

Judy Wallman, a professional genealogy researcher here in southern California, was doing some personal work on her own family tree. She discovered that Harry Reid’s great-great uncle, Remus Reid, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. Both Judy and Harry Reid share this common ancestor.

Harry Reid


The only known photograph of Remus shows him standing on the gallows in Montana territory.

On the back of the picture Judy obtained during her research is this inscription: ‘Remus Reid, horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889.’

So Judy recently e-mailed Congressman Harry Reid for information about their great-great uncle.

Believe it or not, Harry Reid’s staff sent back the following biographical sketch for her genealogy research:

‘Remus Reid was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to government service, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.’

NOW THAT is how it’s done folks! That’s real SPIN.