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FOX News Smears Plame Rather Than Address Her Testimony

Reported by Ellen - March 17, 2007 -

On the same day (3/16/07) that Your World with Neil Cavuto used snide insinuations to report about Valerie Plame's testimony before Congress, Hannity & Colmes avoided discussing the gist of her testimony for most of the almost nine-minute segment supposedly devoted to it. When Alan Colmes finally got to the substance, that the outing of Plame had harmed intelligence missions and put lives at risk, Sean Hannity interrupted what should have been Colmes’ time, stuck in a few extra talking points of his own and ended the segment. For nearly all of the rest of the time, the one guest, Republican Victoria Toensing, did her best to obfuscate the issue, reframe the issue and change the story. With video.

The segment started with a lengthy excerpt from Plame’s testimony. But all the audience heard was her testimony that she was covert. Not shown was her stated purpose in testifying, “the critical issue of safeguarding classified information.” Plame stated, “The harm that is done when a CIA cover is blown is grave but I can't provide details beyond that in this public hearing. But the concept is obvious. Not only have breaches of national security endangered CIA officers, it has jeopardized and even destroyed entire networks of foreign agents who, in turn, risk their own lives and those of their families to provide the United States with needed intelligence. Lives are literally at stake.”

Toensing has a history of obfuscating an issue in order to reframe it and that’s exactly what she pulled last night. Hannity, of course, was an eager participant. You’d think the self-styled “Great American” and Iraq war enthusiast might have been more concerned about the national security implications of Plame’s testimony, particularly the part where she said, “In the run-up to the war with Iraq I worked in the counter proliferation division of the CIA -- still as a covert officer whose affiliation with the CIA was classified. I raced to discover solid intelligence for senior policymakers on Iraq's presumed weapons of mass destruction programs. While I helped to manage and run secret worldwide operations against this WMD target from CIA headquarters in Washington, I also traveled to foreign countries on secret missions to find vital intelligence.”

But Hannity’s sole interest remained in discrediting Plame and blaming her for having gotten outed. “Did she just tell the truth there?” he asked about her statements on being covert.

Toensing ducked the question. “I have no doubt that she has worked for the CIA and that she did things for our country, that she says ‘Well, I’m still covert,” that doesn’t mean anything because you have to be covert under the statute… You cannot convict somebody for something that you don’t give them fair notice of.”

Toensing continued, “Under the law, covert is a very specific term and I’m sure she’s using it very loosely, just meaning she doesn’t tell people particularly who she works for.” Say what? Who’s talking about the law? Plame was talking about putting lives at risk and compromising intelligence missions.

But smearing Plame wasn’t enough for Toensing. She went after the CIA, too. Remarking on her own testimony before Congress the same day, she said, “Here was the important thing… Basically, my testimony was Shame on the CIA because if they thought she was actually covert, it was the sloppiest trade craft I have ever seen.”

She went on to complain that Plame donated $1000 to Al Gore in the name of her cover business. In her zeal to smear Plame, Toensing neglected to mention that, as Media Matters has reported, “Plame reportedly used the name of Brewster-Jennings & Associates, a CIA front company, to conceal her place of employment. On the October 2005 Situation Room, (former CIA agent Larry) Johnson also noted that "when Valerie wrote that check to Al Gore's campaign as a member of [CIA cover organization] Brewster-Jennings, she was living her cover."

In a further departure from the subject of Plame’s testimony, Toensing said there was no testimony that anyone told Scooter Libby that her status was covert. In fact, the issue was Plame’s status, not what anyone told Libby.

Hannity said, “We know that her husband lied on a number of instances,” though he didn’t bother to specify any lies told. Yet Hannity was disingenuous, at best, when he “wondered,” “If in fact, she were covert, would she have donated as publicly as she did, to the Gore campaign?" The slightest bit of research would have answered the question in the affirmative.

When it was Colmes’ turn, he immediately confronted Toensing on her allegation that Plame was not covert. “Let’s get back to the main issue here,” he said. Colmes cited an earlier statement of Toensing’s saying that Plame was not covert. “Did she commit perjury or were you wrong on February 18?”

Toensing fumbled and parsed her words beyond anything Clinton would have imagined. “She may be called covert but she was not covert under the law. They didn’t ask her that.”

Nevertheless, Colmes pressed Toensing for a direct answer.

Toensing has always reminded me of Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. She turned on her most syrupy and most condescending Ratched persona as she said, “Oh, good Lord. Let me give you another fact to chew on, OK? … Alan, listen to the distinction, OK? I said that she is not covert as the law was written. Whatever she – undercover is a term and these people all call each other by really strange, you know, terms. So that doesn’t matter what she’s saying. Nobody ever asked her whether she was covert under the law which is my point because then there was no law broken.” But I don’t see any evidence that Plame was there to testify about whether a law had been broken.

Colmes added that Congressman Elijah Cummings said he had been told by the CIA director that Plame’s status was covert.

“He didn’t say it under the law,” Toensing interrupted. She became really snippy and added even more nonsensically, “I would hope you would want to protect individual liberties much better than I’m listening to you right now.”

So NOW she cares about individual liberties. Compare that to her December 2005 Hannity & Colmes appearance in which Toensing glossed over the legality of President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping and insisted it was necessary so that the government didn’t have to hang up “in case Al Qaeda was calling.”

With more saccharine sweetness, Toensing gave Colmes another “fact to chew on with (Plame),” and deliberately changed the subject to claim an inconsistency in Plame’s story about whether or not she recommended her husband for the trip to Niger.

Colmes said, “You’re changing the subject though from the actual – what’s really important here is whether or not – This woman was under cover, whether she was covert (Toensing tried to interrupt and talk over him) …If what she is saying is true and she said it under oath and these charges are accurate, then it is true that intelligence is compromised and, you know, people are gonna think twice before joining the agency and we don’t know that people are gonna be protected properly if this is actually true. This is not good for the security of the United States, is it?”

Toensing, so concerned about national security that she dismissed concerns about the lawfulness of Bush’s warrantless wiretapping a year ago, now couldn't be bothered with national security concerns. However, she didn’t even have the decency to address Colmes’ question. Instead, she dodged it by changing the subject. Her non-sequitor answer was, “You know what, Alan, you’re sounding just like the people who say, ‘Well, either Tim Russert or Scooter Libby was lying.’ Both people could have honest recollections of the same telephone conversation.”

Hannity interrupted to add a few more comments of his own. At that point, Colmes had received approximately 3:18 compared to Hannity’s 3:52. So Hannity literally stole Colmes’ time as he interjected, “If Joe Wilson hadn’t put himself in the political arena, and by the way, told some things that weren’t true, there wouldn’t have in this issue. They should have protected themselves from the beginning and they didn’t.”

Comment: Is it just me or is that an acknowledgment that the Bush administration deliberately outed Plame in retribution?