Excited Network Reporters Enter Scandal Mode on CIA Name Leak --9/30/2003
2. U.S. Wins Iraq Battle, But CBS Portrays U.S. as Long Term Loser
3. NBC Faults Kazan for Naming Communists, Raises Stifling Garofalo
4. Dan Rather Credits Tax Cut for Higher Consumer Spending
5. Now You Can Support
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6. NBC to Air Law & Order Episode Inspired by Jayson Blair Case
The networks entered full scandal mode on Monday with the evening shows leading for a second straight night with the news that the Justice Department was investigating who in the administration back in July told columnist Bob Novak a CIA operatives's name, though stories conflicted on whether the wife of Joe Wilson, the man who since July has been on a personal PR crusade to undermine President Bush's State of the Union line about Iraq seeking uranium in Africa, was an "agent," an "operative" or a "covert" operative, whether the leak came from "senior administration officials," "top White House officials" or just "White House officials" and, despite Wilson on Monday morning having specifically admitted he went too far in accusing Karl Rove, both CBS and NBC relayed Wilson's naming of Rove.
The hype began Sunday night when CBS Evening News anchor John Roberts led the show: "The Justice Department tonight is investigating whether to launch a criminal probe of the White House after the CIA complained someone at 1600 Pennsylvania may have leaked the classified identity of an agency operative. If those allegations are true, whoever is responsible for the leak could be headed to jail for ten years."
Over on ABC's World News Tonight/Sunday, anchor Terry Moran intoned: "Tonight, the Bush White House is facing a potential criminal investigation. ABC News has learned the Justice Department has launched a preliminary probe into charges that top White House officials leaked the identity of an undercover CIA agent. That's a serious violation of federal law...."
Fast forward to Monday night and NBC's Jim Miklaszewski offered this warning: "If tried and convicted, the leakers could get ten years in prison. But the political fallout could be much worse for the White House whose credibility on Iraq is already on the line."
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann teased his Countdown show with the most derisive characterization of White House action: "The Washington Post reports not only did the White House out an undercover CIA agent as political revenge, but it tried six different reporters before it found one willing to help."
An excited Aaron Brown proposed at the top of Monday's NewsNight on CNN: "It seems like the good old days, doesn't it? Or perhaps the bad old days depending on your point of view." Brown explained: "There were calls in Washington today for a special prosecutor to be appointed to investigate the White House." Brown conceded: "It is, of course, not likely to happen. The country seemed to have its fill of special prosecutors during the Clinton years but it is an interesting argument. Can the administration be trusted to investigate itself over the outing of a CIA agent? We suspect the answer, as it so often does, depends on who you voted for."
After "the Whip," Brown set up the first of three stories on the subject: "We begin tonight with a dark corner of a murky place with a lot to learn and a long way to go. There ought to be a better way of characterizing the affair brewing in Washington over the CIA operative, her husband, the White House and the war but there isn't not yet, certainly nothing quick and snappy like scandal or cover-up or anything with a 'gate' in it, though at the end of the day, one day it may turn out to be all of the above or nothing at all. So far we can only say two things for certain. There is clearly growing political dimensions to this and there are still far more questions than there are answers."
But reporters aren't letting the lack of facts get in the way of pursuing an exciting story.
As FNC's Jim Angle uniquely pointed out on Monday's Special Report with Brit Hume: "Now with all of the sound and fury on this today you would have thought there was some new development. There is not. This matter was handled routinely beginning back in July when it was first referred to the Department of Justice. Some news reports suggested erroneously that CIA Director George Tenet was suddenly pushing an investigation, but officials outside the White House say that -- another leak I suppose -- is flatly untrue."
Indeed, this round of stories was prompted by a front page story in Sunday's Washington Post by reporters Mike Allen and Dana Priest who stated that Tenet requested the probe: "At CIA Director George J. Tenet's request, the Justice Department is looking into an allegation that administration officials leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer to a journalist, government sources said yesterday."
Later on Hume's show, Morton Kondracke noted how the Post story changed between Sunday and Monday. Sunday's story by Allen and Priest asserted that "a senior administration official said that before Novak's column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson's." But Monday's Post story, which carried the byline of only Allen, dropped the "top" modifier and referred to how "an administration official told the Washington Post on Saturday that two White House officials leaked the information to selected journalists to discredit Wilson."
Unlike the Post's characterization of "top White House" or "White House" officials, however, Novak's July 14 column described his sources as "senior administrative officials." The Novak paragraph which set off a scandal two months later: "Wilson never worked for the CIA, but his wife, Valerie Plame, is an Agency operative on weapons of mass destruction. Two senior administration officials told me Wilson's wife suggested sending him to Niger to investigate the Italian report. The CIA says its counter-proliferation officials selected Wilson and asked his wife to contact him." For Novak's July 14 column in full: www.townhall.com
For that initial Post story of September 28: www.washingtonpost.com
-- ABC's Peter Jennings announced at the top of World News Tonight: "We're going to begin tonight with a matter of national security potentially, personal safety possibly and national and national politics without question."
Terry Moran ran through the charges and White House denials before Moran pointed out how "Wilson accuses the administration of trying to silence potential critics." After a clip from Monday's GMA of Wilson claiming the White House outed his wife in an effort to "intimidate others" into not speaking out about Bush misstatements on Iraq, Moran, unlike the CBS and NBC reporters, picked up fresh comments from Novak a few hours earlier on CNN's Crossfire: "And today, Novak denied White House officials had sought him out to plant the story."
Next, Kate Snow looked at how President Reagan in 1982 signed a law making it illegal to divulge the names of CIA agents and she played this clip from former President Bush in 1999: "I have nothing but contempt and anger for those who betray the trust by exposing the names of our sources. They are, in my view, the most insidious of traitors."
-- CBS Evening News. Dan Rather intoned on his broadcast, as taken down by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "Under increasing pressure, the FBI and the Justice Department counter-espionage division now say they are investigating the leak of a CIA operative's name, a federal crime that could endanger the agent and compromise her contacts. CBS's John Roberts at the White House reports there are politically explosive accusations about who might have leaked that name and why, and growing calls for an independent investigation."
Roberts referred to Plame as a "covert" operative: "It was columnist Robert Novak who first published the leak in July, naming the wife of former ambassador Joe Wilson as a covert CIA operative. He says the information came from two senior administration officials. Joe Wilson claims the leak was retaliation after he debunked the President's claim in the State of the Union that Iraq was trying to buy uranium from Africa. The trail, he believes, goes right to the President's top political advisor, Karl Rove."
Roberts concluded: "Both the Justice Department and the CIA today played down the significance of the probe, saying it was one of some 50 leaks they chase down every year. But Democrats today said the high profile nature of this one demands a thorough and independent review. The White House today rejected calls from several ranking Democrats to appoint an outside counsel to look into the matter, saying the Justice Department was the appropriate place for the investigation. And they stood behind the President's political advisor, saying that the idea that Karl Rove was somehow involved was quote, 'ridiculous.'"
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw led by proclaiming: "In Washington tonight, the big question ricocheting through the halls of Congress, the White House, the CIA, the Justice Department and newsrooms is this: Did administration officials deliberately blow the cover of a CIA agent as a measure of revenge against her husband?"
Jim Miklaszewski asked: "So, who leaked the information? Wilson has suggested White House political director Karl Rove at least encouraged reporters to spread the information about Wilson's wife."
But on Monday's Good Morning America, Wilson had backed away from the very hostile statement which Miklaszewski highlighted, telling Charles Gibson: "In one speech I gave out in Seattle not too long ago I mentioned the name Karl Rove. I think I was probably carried away by the spirit of the moment. I don't have any knowledge that Karl Rove himself was either the leaker or the authorizer of the leak, but I have great confidence that at a minimum he condoned it and certainly did nothing to shut it down."
Speaking of a morning show, they have been much more restrained than their evening colleagues. Monday's Today barely mention the subject and on Tuesday held itself to an interview segment with Senator Charles Schumer and a top of the hour story. Tuesday's Good Morning America ran a story but offered no interview segment after running the interview Monday with Wilson.
For perspectives on the "scandal" not touched by the networks, check out a couple of National Review Online postings:
-- Marc Levin opined in a September 29 piece: "When I first heard about Wilson's wife, my immediate thought was: Wilson created the very circumstance he now complains about. He voluntarily drew attention to himself and, by extension, his family. He interjected himself into an intense international policy dispute regarding the war with Iraq....While I'm all in favor of investigating national-security-related leaks, we'll never know if foreign-intelligence agencies, among others, had already learned of Plame's position thanks to the attention her husband drew to himself by taking the Niger fact-finding assignment in the first place. Like it or not, Wilson bears some responsibility for his wife's predicament." See: www.nationalreview.com
-- Cliff May explored Wilson's left-wing political advocacy in a piece titled, "Was it really a secret that Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA?" May recalled how "Wilson had long been a bitter critic of the current administration, writing in such left-wing publications as The Nation that under President Bush, 'America has entered one of it periods of historical madness' and had 'imperial ambitions.'" For May's piece: www.nationalreview.com
Can't win for winning. After an all-day battle in Iraq, U.S. soldiers were victorious over some terrorists, killing an unknown number of terrorists, taking over a dozen into custody and suffering just three injuries after one U.S. soldier was killed in an initial surprise attack which sparked one short and one long battle. But to CBS's Elizabeth Palmer, the U.S. came up the loser. "No matter how many Iraqi rebels were killed or injured," she warned, "the danger is for the coalition that this will be seen as a heroic battle and will attract fighters from all over the country or even across the border."
Palmer showcased a crowd of Iraqis: "With planes and helicopters roaring overhead, the people of Khaldiyah remain defiant. They are pro-Saddam, they say, but most of all they're anti-American."
Dan Rather set up the September 29 CBS Evening News story from Iraq: "This was an especially violent day in the ongoing battle for Iraq. U.S. forces engaged in a major extended battle with ferocious firepower on both sides against enemies west of Baghdad. Exactly who was in the enemy force is unclear. This followed ambush attacks that killed another American soldier, the 309th to die since the war began. As CBS's Elizabeth Palmer reports from Khaldiyah, today's big major battle was only one element in an effort to root out a myriad of various enemy forces in Iraq."
Palmer began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth: "America rolled out the big guns backed up by fighter planes and helicopter gun ships in a battle that lasted most of the day. In the hostile area west of Baghdad, two separate attacks on U.S. convoys killed one soldier and wounded three more. In the town of Habaniyah, a mine exploded as a humvee drove past. Just minutes earlier, a few miles west, a bomb wounded soldiers in a U.S. patrol. Witnesses say when the Americans tried to evacuate them, rebels hiding in nearby houses opened fire with rocket-propelled grenades. The prolonged fighting in the village of Khaldiyah drove many people to seek cover. One local woman was injured and several houses were destroyed. The military says 14 Iraqis were also detained."
But even when they win, CBS portrays them as losing, so they can't win.
If someone disclosed that people he knew were neo-Nazis he'd be treated as a hero by the media, but not if in the 1950s he revealed the affiliations of those with an affinity for communism, then an active worldwide campaign to enslave, murder and oppress millions. Instead of portraying the late film director Elia Kazan, who passed away on Sunday, as a hero for having provided, to the House Committee on Un-American Activities, names of those dedicated to undermining the U.S. and empowering our enemy, three NBC News stars condemned him.
Tom Brokaw recalled how "in 1952 Kazan earned a much darker notoriety when he offered the names of colleagues he claimed to be communist to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Many felt betrayed." On Today, Katie Couric asserted: "Elia Kazan directed some of America's most enduring films and plays yet he'll always be remembered for what many call a betrayal."
MSNBC's Keith Olbermann managed to link the supposed suppression of dissent by the Dixie Chicks, Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo with Kazan as he maintained that "2003 was not the first time dissent, the American virtue, the unique right of us Americans, suddenly became an ugly word." Olbermann insisted that "when we talk about the death of Elia Kazan, overshadowing his work was the time he unreluctantly and unremorsefully identified eight of his personal friends as communists during his testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee."
More details on those three stories aired on Monday, September 29:
-- Today: Katie Couric, the MRC's Geoffrey Dickens noticed, set up a profile of Kazan's life: "One of the most critically acclaimed and controversial directors of the 20th century died Sunday at the age of 94. Elia Kazan directed some of America's most enduring films and plays yet he'll always be remembered for what many call a betrayal."
James Hatori reported: "In 1952 Kazan was called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. He eventually named colleagues with whom he associated while a member of the Communist Party in the 1930s. Much of Hollywood scorned him then and some still did in 1999 when the Academy presented him with a lifetime achievement award. While many there stood to applaud others sat on their hands."
Amongst those shown not applauding: Nick Nolte and Ed Harris.
-- NBC Nightly News. Tom Brokaw went through his film achievements before turning sour: "In 1952 Kazan earned a much darker notoriety when he offered the names of colleagues he claimed to be communist to the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Many felt betrayed. Some never forgave him. When he was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1999 a few refused to acknowledge his accomplishments."
Brokaw did at least conclude: "But in the end, it is the art of Elia Kazan, much more than the controversy, that endures."
-- MSNBC's Countdown. Keith Olbermann, the MRC's Brad Wilmouth observed, used Kazan's death as an opportunity for a lengthy commentary railing against Bill O'Reilly and defending Al Franken and Janeane Garofalo. Olbermann's rant is lengthy, but it's worth reading in full for its mendacity:
Kazan is best-known for the movies East of Eden (1955), On the Waterfront (1954) and A Streetcar Named Desire (1951). For a bio of Kazan and a picture of him, see his page on the Internet Movie Database: us.imdb.com
Miracle of the day: Dan Rather reported a benefit caused by the tax cuts. On Monday's CBS Evening News, Rather acknowledged:
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"Ripped from the headlines," Wednesday's episode of NBC's Law & Order is inspired by the Jayson Blair case.
A currently running promo for the show, which revolves around New York City police detectives and prosecutors, promises: "NBC's Wednesday Law & Order is all new. Ripped from the headlines, a big time reporter fakes a news story. Now a man is dead. How could a fake news story lead to a murder? All new Law & Order, NBC Wednesday."
"All new" as opposed to just plain "new."
Law & Order airs after The West Wing at 10pm EDT/PDT, 9pm CDT/MDT. NBC's Web page for the show: www.nbc.com
Of course, the real Blair case did not lead to anyone getting killed, just top editors Howell Raines and Gerald Boyd losing their jobs.
# Scheduled to appear tonight, Tuesday night, on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno: Howard Dean.
-- Brent Baker