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Shepard Smith Says the 'N' Word - Novak

Reported by Donna - June 30, 2005

Under the banner 'Time Magazine to turn in notes for investigation into CIA leak', Shepard Smith spoke with Eric Burns, the host of Fox News Watch, regarding the Valerie Plame leak.

The story is that Time Magazine is now saying the Supreme Court has limited freedom of the press. The Supreme Court refused to hear the case of these two journalists (Ted Olsen was going to argue it before the bench) and now Time Magazine has agreed to hand over their reporter's notes. The NY Times is still refusing to hand over notes.

This is a story that has been followed quite extensively on News Hounds. One that is rarely mentioned in depth on Fox, so it was a bit of a surprise to hear that they were going to discuss it. Well, maybe not so much of a surprise since Time Magazine is handing over the reporter's notes and we may soon know something about 'who' was behind this leak.

The following is my transcript between Shepard Smith and Eric Burns (paraphrased, but pretty much verbatim). It's long, but I do so appreciate you reading it, thanks.

Shepard Smith: Have they gone over the line here?

Eric Burns: Who, the courts or Time Magazine? Time Magazine has gone over the line here. This is preposturous. Two questions that members of the news organizations should ask themselves if they are going to fight for a reporter in their organization to keep their sources secret.

First question, did the story in question have any positive good? What's your answer? Did anyone need to know that Valerie Plame was a covert CIA operative? Did that serve some kind of public function?

SS: No.

EB: Second question, did the story do anybody any harm? Yeah, Valerie Plame is no longer a covert operative. We tried to find out what happened to her. The CIA is notoriously unforthcoming. What we believe is she worked there until May. Is she still there? There's no way to know. Is she still a covert operative? Almost certainly not because her cover was blown.

Why would a journalist say 'I have a right to keep private sources which provided information for a story of this nature? I don't understand it. It's why people think journalists are arrogant (except for Fox, do they have journalists?) It's hiding behind a principle, when, in this case, the result of that principle is a story that did no good and some harm. (I think that is called freedom of the press)

SS: Of course, at the root of all of this is -- did the Bush Administration, or one person in the Bush Administration leak this as a gotcha and how dare you say bad things about this president. That's the root of it all.

EB: Yeah, but isn't that another reason why we should know the sources in this case. Not only is, perhaps, Valerie Plame worse off because of this story but there may be some important information about the motives of the leakers.

I mean, you know the journalist's augument here. If we're requested to tell people who our sources are, if we're required to tell a court who our sources are, well, maybe those sources won't talk to us in the future.

What you have to do is imagine a scale of justice. On one scale is the access of a journalist to sources to which he might have access anyhow, he might get the information anyhow.

On the other hand and nobody ever thinks about the other scale. Is it the right of an individual to know who his or her accuser is? The right of people to know if politics is being played at a dirty level. (No one would do that, would they?) Why we assume that the right of a journalist to protect sources is in all cases a more positive good than the right of other people to have their information, is a mystery to me.

SS: Very interesting argument. You know what I wonder? The elephant in the room is Bob Novak. Why the heck doesn't Bob Novak, where is the complaint against Bob Novak. Not that there's anything wrong with Bob Novak, but I bet that Bob Novak knows this isn't fair. (Shepard emphasized Bob Novak's name and seemed to want to say it as many times as possible)

EB: We should say Bob Novak is the one who broke the story and for some reason, in their follow ups, Matt Cooper doing one for Time and Judith Miller doing one for the NY Times....

SS: Yup.

EB: ...they're the ones who are in trouble.

SS: They go through hell and Novak goes through nothing. What is that?

EB: As long as this story has been going on I've heard a lot of explanations about why Novak (last few words over talked by Smith)

SS: Have you heard a good one?

EB: Maybe, maybe I'm just not bright enough to understand. Here's the guy who started the problems for Ms. Plame, he has no problems now and these other journalists do.

SS: Could that be because of maybe of where he got this and maybe he'll write about this at some point?

EB: That would be highly speculative, Shepard.

SS: It would be speculative. It would be cool of him to write about it, wouldn't it?

EB: It depends on how much he knows. No, it wouldn't be cool. He lets a couple other journalists get in trouble like this and then he cashes in and writes a book? What are you advocating?

SS: I didn't say write a book. The man writes for a living. Let us know what the heck happened. How did this go down? Did that administration give you this? If it did, we deserve to know.

EB: Have you paid attention to what's going on in this culture lately? You have prized information, do you write it in a newspaper article or do you get a $700,000 advance for a book? Pay attention.

Comments: I thought it was important to get this story out there since we've discussed it endlessly here and Fox never seemed to pay much attention to it. I will give credit to Shepard Smith for asking the hard questions. Now that the notes are being handed over by Time Magazine, some of these questions will be answered. However, what does everyone think? Is this a 1st Amendment issue?

And just now on CNN someone suggested that the president could use a presidential pardon for these reporters and then we would never know. We'll watch it over the coming days and weeks.

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