WASHINGTON—Despite his role as a likely prosecution witness in the criminal trial of former vice presidential chief of staff Lewis Libby, NBC’s Tim Russert orchestrated a discussion of the controversial case on the network’s Meet the Press show on Sunday that could have the effect of tainting the potential jury pool and undermining the process of assuring Libby a fair trial.
“This is unprecedented and outrageous conduct,” declared Accuracy in Media (AIM) editor Cliff Kincaid. “Russert has completely abandoned basic standards of journalistic fairness and has already joined the prosecution team.”
While lip service was given to the idea that he is innocent until proven guilty and that Libby will one day present his side of the story, Russert and his associates convicted Libby of the charges on national television.
Russert brought Washington Post columnist David Broder on to say that Libby’s lawyers “have a heavy burden to disprove these charges.” Former CNN journalist Judy Woodruff told Russert that “?I think it’s going to be very difficult for Scooter Libby [to] defend himself.”
Libby says that he will be exonerated in a court of law. But Kincaid said that, “Russert has already found Libby guilty of the charges in the court of public opinion, a court in which Russert is abusing his power in the media by playing the role of judge and jury. We repeat our demand that he step aside from the network’s coverage of the case.”
Confirming Russert’s explosive role in the case, Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff declared on Sunday’s CNN Reliable Sources show that Russert is “the central witness” in the case and “could end up being the guy who puts Libby in jail.”
“Perhaps this explains Russert’s abuse of media power,” said Kincaid. “A fair trial, which now looks extremely unlikely at this point because of the biased coverage, could exonerate Libby and damage the credibility of Russert and other journalists.”
Accuracy In Media (AIM) is a non-profit, grassroots citizens watchdog of the news media that critiques botched and bungled news stories and sets the record straight on important issues that have received slanted coverage.