Accuracy in Media

After months of intense media speculation that senior White House aide Karl Rove was about to be indicted for his alleged role in the leaking of CIA employee Valerie Plame Wilson’s name to columnist Robert Novak, Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald informed Rove on June 12 that he wasn’t going to be indicted. Following five appearances before the grand jury, the news came as a great relief to Rove and the White House but a bitter disappointment to his media critics, including Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann of MSNBC.

David Shuster of MSNBC, a fixture on both shows, had flatly said, “I am convinced that Karl Rove will in fact be indicted.”

Strangely, the Matthews and Olbermann shows are being cited by MSNBC managers as “long-sought breakthroughs” in programming for the low-rated cable network, according to a June 26 New York Times story by Bill Carter. These shows have given MSNBC the reputation of being an arm of  the Democratic National Committee.

Fitzgerald’s decision in the Rove case was a black eye for Shuster as well as another black eye for Joseph Wilson, the former Ambassador and John Kerry adviser who had been calling for or predicting Rove’s indictment. In 2003, Wilson said, “it’s of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs.” A media favorite who wrote a book ironically titled The Politics of Truth, Wilson looks even more foolish than he did before.

Remember that Wilson had gone to the African country of Niger in 2002 to inquire about claims that Saddam Hussein had attempted to purchase uranium yellowcake, a form of uranium that can be used for nuclear weapons. Wilson claimed his trip had been instigated by Vice President Cheney’s office and wrote a July 2003 op-ed in the New York Times attacking the administration for suggesting that Saddam was interested in obtaining the nuclear fuel.

In 2004, however, the Senate Intelligence Committee issued a report that showed that Wilson had misrepresented certain aspects of his trip to Niger. It said that Wilson in fact had obtained information suggesting that Saddam was seeking to purchase uranium there. The Butler Report, released in England a year after Wilson’s New York Times column, stated that the British government still believed Saddam was seeking uranium from Africa, which was President Bush’s statement about the matter, and that it had intelligence about this from several sources. 

Strangely, the New York Times article about the announcement that Rove would not be indicted continued to focus on speculation that he was about to be indicted. “The lawyers [in the case] said the prosecutor seemed at times to be at the brink of bringing charges against Mr. Rove,” wrote the Times, “over his failure to volunteer early in the inquiry a conversation about Ms. Wilson with the Time magazine reporter, Matt Cooper.”

The Times pointed to a discredited left-wing blog, ironically called “truthout.org,” that had earlier claimed that Rove had already been secretly indicted. The Times said this “truthout” group “still believed its initial report?that there was a sealed indictment against Mr. Rove?was accurate?” I guess that depends on the meaning of the word “accurate.”

Performing a tremendous public service, the Washington Times took a look at the coverage of the story by MSNBC and noted Keith Olbermann’s show “Countdown” had discussed the topic 26 times. It noted Shuster’s faulty prediction of a Rove indictment, as well as NBC correspondent Norah O’Donnell’s questionable claim that Rove “has come within a whisker of being indicted.” She didn’t explain how she knew this. Perhaps she had some of the same sources as “truthout.”

When Rove was cleared, she still maintained that it was bad news for the White House because he was still working there! She said that it might have been better for them if he had “gotten nipped with some minor level indictment, so that you could just get rid of these people [Rove and indicted former Cheney chief of staff Louis Libby] today.”

The charge constantly repeated by the media is that the White House leaked Plame’s name to retaliate against Wilson for his accusations against the administration, though they never explain how revealing her name, if in fact they did, got back at him. This claim is plausible only if the media accept the fact, which they repeatedly tried to dispute, that his wife Valerie Plame did play a key role in getting him to go on his junket to Africa. And that gets to the immediate issue that should have been under investigation-a possible violation of federal nepotism laws when Plame helped arrange for her husband to make the trip. And that led to a bigger problem still in need of investigation-the role of rogue elements in the CIA in a plot to undermine the Bush Administration’s Iraq policy.

The real truth still needs to come out.




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