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Novak Falsehoods About Plame Leak Accepted As Truth On FOX News

Reported by Ellen - July 18, 2006 -

During the Hannity & Colmes news break Friday night (7/14/06), there was a brief report about Ambassador Joseph Wilson and Valerie Plame’s lawsuit against Vice President Dick Cheney, Karl Rove and Scooter Libby over the outing of Plame as a CIA agent in Robert Novak’s column. Reporter Steve Centanni summarized the particulars then added, “But Robert Novak, who printed Plame’s identity in his column, told FOX News today she was outed many years earlier by convicted double agent Aldrich Ames.”

Funny how Novak didn’t mention that during his “tell all” appearance on Hannity & Colmes earlier in the week (7/12/06) in which Alan Colmes quizzed him carefully about the CIA’s request(s) not to publish Plame’s name and Novak’s acknowledgement that he had decided to publish it anyway. "My conception is that (the CIA’s Bill) Harlow was a (sic) very low key in urging me not to write the story, never said that there was any kind of danger involved, never said anything that led me to believe that this was a strongly held matter at the CIA… Alan, if I adhered to, if I bowed to somebody who asked me not to write stories all the time who are in government, about half the columns I write would not be written or a great number would not be written." You’d think Novak would have said something then if he thought Plame had already been outed.

Furthermore, as far as I could discover, it was never a certainty that Plame was outed by Ames. All the reports I found were in agreement with Dana Priest, of the Washington Post, who wrote that Ames was “believed to have given the Russians the name of every covert operative in the Soviet/East European Division over 10 years beginning around 1985. Not knowing exactly whom he had outed, the CIA recalled hundreds of operatives, including Plame, for their safety.”

Even more importantly, as Media Matters reports, the CIA thought the leak to Novak (now a FOX News contributor) damaging enough to warrant a special investigation and Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald has stated, “The fact that she was a CIA officer was not well-known.” Neither of those facts were reported by Centanni.

After I posted about Novak’s 7/12 appearance on Hannity & Colmes, I received a tip from a reader about another falsehood told by Novak. When Colmes asked if it was true, as had been reported by Murray Waas in The National Journal, that Karl Rove, had testified before the grand jury that Novak had assured Rove he would not get burned by the investigation into the outing of Plame, Novak answered, "That was not said. That's a total lie. It was reported by one reporter in one not very widely read publication and it was not picked up in the general press and the idea that there was any such under-the-table arrangement between me and Rove of course would have created a lot of trouble with the Special Prosecutor and there was never any action taken by him on that score."

In my post, I commented that while Novak seemed to be saying Waas lied about what Novak told Rove, Waas’ article was really about what Rove testified to, not what Novak actually said. Novak never mentioned that he had access to Rove’s testimony and I thought the attack on Waas was a cheap feint.

It turned out to be more than a cheap feint; it was an outright untruth. As TPMmuckraker.com has reported, both MSNBC and Bloomberg reported the same information as Waas. I don’t think even Robert Novak would claim that MSNBC or Bloomberg are not part of the “general press.”