Exclusive interview, David Wu (part six): Why take mystery pills from a friend? (And more on Valium)

A month ago, Wu admitted taking a prescription painkiller in 2010 from a campaign donor without obtaining a prescription - and without asking what they were. Later, he disclosed that in 2008 he'd had an allergic reaction to prescribed Ambien and Valium and had to be hospitalized.

Which raises an important question about his judgment.

KARI: One question that has come up again and again. In 2008, you described how you had this rather unfortunate side effect of a drug interaction that your doctors weren’t clued in to. And that’s unfortunate. It happens. In 2010, there was this incident where you were feeling some pain and you took two pills from a donor at a dinner. One publication described it as oxycodone. Another publication described it as ibuprofen. You’ve been quoted as saying you don’t know what it was. Given the 2008 experience, why would you take some pills from a friend if you didn’t know what they were?

WU: It was nuts! It was really nuts. It was a bad thing to do. It was the wrong thing to do. I don’t know if you’ve ever had neck or back pain. I haven’t had the back or neck pain since the election was over, strangely enough. You can do something really stupid, and I did.

I’ll tell you what, I don’t think anybody knows. I don’t think anybody knows. People can speculate until the cows come home. But I don’t think anybody knows what it was that I took. I don’t. Those publications can speculate. These people can speculate.

KARI: That’s why I wanted to ask you.

WU: Yeah. And I’m telling you that what I said is what I know. That I don’t know, and I don’t think anybody does.

And the problem is, it’s hard to find that plausible. But you know what? That’s what -- it’s like the ’08 thing. It was a complex biochemical, physiological thing. I didn’t want to ever try to explain it, because it’s so difficult to explain. But ultimately I saw what these folks were doing and I thought, “You better get ahead of this and explain that.”

Later in the interview, Wu talked about ending his use of prescription Valium:

WU: I found out two years ago: Don’t take this. You have to find other ways of relaxing other than taking a Valium. And I think that there are other ways – getting exercise is one. I’m taking up yoga!

And later, he returned to the theme:

WU: I have worked my life through to a better place where – without Valium, I feel good. Because there are other ways to achieve the same thing. You can be a Congressman and still be healthy. You know, the two are not necessarily exclusive. But for god’s sake, don’t tell people you’ve stopped drinking. Just don’t do it. I think I’ll go have half a glass of wine tonight, so I can say it tomorrow.


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    Good interview. Good questions. Don't care much for the headline.

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      What's wrong with the headline? I'm confused. I think it accurately describes the two elements of the content in the post - mysterious pills and Valium use.

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        Kari - I am referring to the main headline: "Is David Wu fit to be a Congressman?" I can understand why it was used, but it just seems a little too heavy-handed. It seems that for so generously granting you a long interview, he could have earned a more tempered headline like, "Wu Sits Down to Answer Tough Questions." Not quite as sensational, but certainly more respectful.

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    Okay, so why hasn't Wu asked the donor who supplied the pills what it was that he took?

    This has been a story for awhile now, and surely he's had time to find out.

    Sure, it's possible the donor doesn't know, but people who carry painkillers with them usually know what they have. I someone had taken two pills I had given them, I could tell you that it was Ibuprofen, cause that's what I have with me most of the time.

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    Dylan's comment about the headline is a perfect example of my comments about media coverage in an earlier installment of this series. Headlines can be extremely subjective, because voters who still like Wu and support him, are likely to react as Dylan did, versus those who think he should resign. Words are like a prism, and their conjugation can illicit many perceptions and reactions, based on one's worldview.

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      My views are of course impacted by my ongoing support of Wu, but I think most objective people could step back and admit this headline is loaded. I mean, if someone wrote a story about me entitled, "Is Dylan Hydes fit to practice law?" I would take great offense because the clear implication is that I am not.

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    I guess I disagree about that overall headline. That is, after all, the fundamental question that underpins all the reporting on David Wu over the last couple of months.

    Is he fit to be a Congressman?

    Reasonable people can disagree about the answer -- but I don't think there's any question that that's the question.

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