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FOX News Frantically Spins Rove Scandal

Reported by Ellen - July 17, 2005 -

The way I figure it, the GOP's jitters about Karl Rove and Plamegate are in direct proportion to the extent to which FOX News tries to spin the scandal. That's the good news behind all the good-for-Rove guests that have been on Hannity & Colmes and the relative scarcity of opposing views or news. In the week that FOX has suddenly decided the story is worth discussing (coincidentally timed with the arrival of Rove's talking points), Hannity & Colmes has hosted five pro-Rove guests and two democrats. How balanced is that, Roger "it's very important for us to be fair" Ailes? Luckily for our side, the two Democrats talked rings around their counterparts and Sean Hannity.

After Bill Press trounced Sean Hannity on Tuesday night, 7/12/05, Democrats seemed to have been barred from any discussions about Rove. But on Friday night, 7/15/05, Newsweek's (and FOX News contributor) Eleanor Clift was allowed on for the second of two segments on Plamegate.

The first segment featured an "exclusive interview" with Valerie Plame's former supervisor at the CIA, Fred Rustmann. He claimed Plame's cover was "thin," that it "began to erode" once she started dating Joe Wilson.

Hannity jumped on that quicker than you could say "Hocus Pocus," claiming that "She made no bones about the fact that she was an agency employee. Her neighbors and friends knew." Sorry, Sean, but you're wrong. According to the New York Times, her friends and neighbors were shocked.

Meanwhile, Hannity, the patriot, gleefully drew the viewers' attention to Plame's appearance in two photos that have been shown at least a dozen times on the H&C screen during the past week, in an apparent effort to out her even further.

Rustmann later told Alan Colmes (who got at least a full minute less time in the segment than Hannity) that the outing "wasn't a big deal" to national security nor did it expose other people working for the same front company as Plame.

How does Rustmann know so much about Plame's status at the time of her outing in 2003 when he said his own tenure at the CIA ended in 1990? Nobody said. If she wasn't really under cover, why did the CIA ask for an investigation? Nobody asked that of Rustmann, either.

Next it was time for the "eye-opening" (as read in the introduction by Alan Colmes) news from the New York Times that Novak told Rove that Plame worked for the CIA, not the other way around. The guests were Eleanor Clift and Byron York. The real eye-opener came from Clift, who cut right to the chase and didn't let anyone stop her from telling it like it is.

Colmes started the discussion by saying that the way he read the story, Rove was really the second source for Novak, that Rove confirmed what someone else in the White House told Novak, not that Rove was the recipient of a reporter's leak.

Clift, in her straight, no-nonsense way, said that whether or not Rove committed a crime, he was "clearly in the middle of the spreading of this story and it was an attempt to discredit the information that Joe Wilson had brought forward and it has prompted the press corps to examine what other lies there may have been in the selling of the war." She and Colmes agreed that it's a political problem for the White House regardless of whether a law has been broken.

Colmes, speaking to York, said that the NY Times article also said that Rove told investigators that 3 days before speaking to Cooper he learned Plame's name from Novak but he also said he didn't know her name.

York called that a minor contradiction and went straight to his talking point that Rove and Scooter Libby (Cheney's chief of staff) learned of Plame's identity from reporters.

Before Colmes could respond, it was Hannity's turn. I'd like to believe that Colmes was going to move away from the "trees" of who said what to whom and focus on the "forest," and that the following questions were on the tip of his tongue: Is it appropriate for a White House official to be casually chatting with reporters about CIA agents under any circumstances? Why didn't Rove tell the president about his conversation with Cooper after Bush demanded full disclosure from his staff? Or did he tell the president and the two of them withheld the information from the public? Also, if a reporter outed Plame to Rove, why didn't he immediately report that? Wouldn't he have been concerned about such a leak? Why deny that he knew anything about the outing for two years?

Hannity started by saying, "Here's a situation where Novak calls Karl, Cooper calls Karl, Novak informs Karl about Valerie, not the other way around. The New York Times even exonerates Karl and if you want to know why your party is losing, you're overreaching, you're jumping the gun. You guys are angry, shrill and petty and I'd like you to keep going. Don't stop."

Clift responded, "Look, I'm not on a first-name with 'Karl' the way you are but I believe that he is the subject of this grand jury investigation... I don't know who you talked to in the White House but the people that I talked to are pretty nervous because they don't know what (the prosecutor) knows and they don't know what he's after.

Hannity interrupted her to say sarcastically that he's sure all the people in the White House are telling her their secrets. "I'm sure you'll be the first person they'll call." (Comment: Maybe she's gotten information that he hasn't because she's been looking beyond the official talking points, something Hannity clearly isn't doing.)

Clift didn't let Hannity rattle her and continued right along with what she was saying - that the prosecutor is a serious person and he wouldn't have sent New York Times reporter Judith Miller to jail if he didn't have evidence of wrongdoing by somebody.

Hannity, whose only way to debate a paper bag would be to start attacking it, turned to York rather than respond to any of the substance of Clift's remarks. "It's clear that by any objective measure Karl Rove is going to be in the clear - by any objective measure - but yet the Democrats politically are hanging on to this... Just from a purely analytical point of view, and just from the political point of view, this is a party that's overreaching, and that was jumping the gun and I think at the end of the day are going to have egg on their faces. Is that a likely outcome?"

York, who has always struck me as a decent person, said it's "a possibility" (Comment: not exactly a ringing endorsement of Hannity's theory) and that he also thinks there isn't that much interest in the story outside of the beltway. (Comment: Not if our stats are any indication. And something tells me the vast majority of our readers are not Washington insiders.)

Clift interrupted York to say that she thinks there's a greater likelihood that the outcome will be the discovery of overreaching on the part of the Administration in the way that they tried to persuade people of the necessity of going to war against Iraq.

Hannity interrupted with heavy sarcasm: Oh, good grief, let it go, Eleanor (Comment: only someone without any close friends or relatives whose lives are still at stake in Iraq would say such a thing, as if going to war is all in the distant past.)

Clift: I'm not letting it go and a lot of the American people are not letting it go.

I wonder if Hannity will need several more Republican-only nights in order to recover.