Accuracy in Media

At the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), veteran conservative columnist Robert Novak delivered eloquent remarks reflecting back on his long career in journalism. But he also took note of the “Canadian journalist writing in National Review [who] questioned my patriotism.” That was a reference to David Frum, who identified Novak and several others as “unpatriotic conservatives” in an April 7, 2003, issue of National Review because of their views on U.S. policy in the Middle East, including the Iraq War.

Novak told the gathering that while he opposed the war, his criticism of the invasion ceased once U.S. troops were ordered in to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Novak, like another prominent conservative, Paul Weyrich, also used his remarks before CPAC to highlight the importance of his family. In personal terms, Novak also mentioned that he had converted to the Roman Catholic Church ten years ago.

While many conservatives disagreed with Novak on the Iraq War, Frum’s attack on Novak was completely out of bounds.

As David Keene of the American Conservative Union wrote in a column, Frum’s “vituperative attack on one of the nation’s most respected conservative columnists marks the man as neither conservative nor intellectually respectable.” Keene added, “Frum seems to know little of Novak’s background or history, but anyone who can read a newspaper should know that Novak was opposing this nation’s enemies before Frum was even born.”

Another Frum target, columnist Sam Francis, who has since passed away, commented, “It would be nice if Mr. Frum, himself an immigrant from Canada, could decide which country is his own before he accuses others of hating theirs.”

Novak’s position on the Iraq War can be legitimately challenged, as well as his controversial views on Communist China. In an October 27, 2005, column, titled, “Is China a Threat?,” Novak answered in the negative.

These days, he is known more for his role in publishing the name of Joseph Wilson’s wife, CIA employee Valerie Plame, and sparking a national furor.

Novak reported, “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.”

All of this was true.

Novak would later say, “They asked me not to use her name, but never indicated it would endanger her or anybody else. According to a confidential source at the CIA, Mrs. Wilson was an analyst, not a spy, not a covert operative and not in charge of undercover operators,” Novak said.

All of this was true as well. The liberal media, who usually enjoy and benefit from leaks, didn’t like this one. They went after Novak, suggesting that he had done something wrong. Ironically, the New York Times and other liberal media insisted on an official investigation, which resulted in Times reporter Judith Miller-not Novak-going to jail.

Vice Presidential chief of staff Lewis Libby was indicted for lying, but his defense will consist of challenging the veracity or recollections of those whose testimonies before the Grand Jury resulted in his indictment. And those testimonies came from people in the media, such as Tim Russert.

Novak has remained mum about the probe, but Russert has continued to host Meet the Press and talk about the case, even though he has an obvious conflict of interest and his own credibility is on the line.

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