May 12, 2005

Novak Chickens Out

Update 8/5/05: Looks like Novak is so unwilling to speak about his part in outing a CIA agent that he walked off a CNN news set during a back and forth with James Carville before he could be questioned about it.

Robert Novak, partisan conservative pundit, has been able to float above the controversy about who leaked to him the fact that Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, was a top secret CIA agent. Today two reporters, Judith Miller (boo!) and Matt Cooper are on the verge of going to jail because they refuse to reveal the name of the persons who disclosed to them Plame's role as a secret agent. Remember, Novak got the same information and unlike the other reporters actually publicized it to the world. Nevertheless Robert Novak continues to be feted as a top pundit and goes about his business without ever having to justify why he disclosed this state secret and who broke the law by telling him Ms Plame's name.

Eric Alterman was scheduled to debate Novak and he was ready to ask Novak to explain his actions. But now comes a notice that Novak has decided to "skip" this debating opportunity. As Alterman said:

I very much regret Robert Novak’s decision to withdraw from the Arthur N. Rupe Great Debate scheduled for May 25 at UC Santa Barbara. I had looked forward to debating the important question of media bias, as well as the implications for that issue raised by Mr. Novak’s journalistic and ethical transgressions that have made him as much a “story” as a reporter. Until now, Mr. Novak has managed to avoid being asked to answer for these transgressions, either by his employers, CNN and The Washington Post, or by other journalists. Until now, Mr. Novak has managed to avoid being asked to answer for these transgressions, either by his employers, CNN and The Washington Post, or by other journalists. No reporter from either of these allegedly liberal media institutions has yet pressed Mr. Novak to explain his role in a probe that may see two journalists jailed. Nor has Mr. Novak been pressed to explain why he would play patsy to anonymous Bush administration officials in their attempt to destroy the reputations of two loyal and patriotic public servants -- an attempt that may have endangered national security and involved the commission of a crime. If Mr. Novak withdrew from this debate because he feared the consequences of being asked to defend his journalistic ethics in a public forum, then he made a wise decision. It is ironic, however, that someone so willing to fling unsubstantiated charges appears to lack either the courage or the sense of personal honor to answer the questions he has inspired among so many of us in the profession.

Indeed, the press has been reluctant to question one of their own. But I think it is important to remember that there are bloggers that are more than willing to ask the hard questions. In fact, our very own intrepid natasha dared beard the "great and awesome" Robert Novak when she had the opportunity to do so when she was covering the Democratic convention. Here's natasha's take on her encounter with Robert Novak.

Bob Novak is a man who walks pretty quickly. Maybe it was because he was surrounded by twenty thousand Democrats, maybe it's because he likes the opportunity to exercise. I saw him zip by while standing in line last night for rotating floor credentials, and only noticed him because a couple folks from California were standing behind me and made some allusion to his release of Valerie Plame's identity. They briefly discussed going after him, but I wasn't tempted because it was about the last chance to get a pass onto the floor before they closed it down.

Later, as the last of us bloggers straggled out together to head to the Boston Commons, who should I see but Novak again. And he's moving like he's trying to convince himself not to break into a sprint. So I go after him on the way to the exit, get out the recorder, & say "Mr. Novak, will you make a statement?" He mumbles some assent. "So, what do you think about the aftermath of releasing Valerie Plame's name to the press?" I could have phrased that better, but I was trying to keep up with Novak, and the man's pretty spry.

So he says, "I have nothing to say." And then he turns toward me, I was to his side, as if he's about to say something else and he sees the recorder. The man zooms off at an angle like I had a cattle prod in my hand. I headed back the direction I came from to rejoin the other bloggers, and then we all went back towards the exit.

Who should come walking by again but Bob Novak, who didn't seem to have seen me well enough to recognize me. So he gets past, and I call out, "Mr. Novak." So he turns around and I'm reaching into the bag and say "Are you sure you won't make a statement?" And at just about that moment, Byron from Burnt Orange Report snaps a picture of Novak frozen in horror. Then he was off again, like a bat out of hell.

It's good to see that Eric Alterman is using his platform to pressure Novak on this matter. Novak needs to be held accountable.

Posted by Mary at May 12, 2005 10:58 PM | Media | Technorati links |

That moment really made the convention for me. The great Bob Novak running away like a little chicken from some random person with a tape recorder and a question. Heh.

Posted by: natasha at May 12, 2005 11:56 PM