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ABC White House correspondent Jessica Yellin reported that in remarks on July 18, "President Bush pledged to fire any aides who committed a crime in the CIA leak case." But Yellin failed to inform viewers that this pledge departs from the president's earlier promise to fire anyone involved in the leak. During the early days of the CIA leak scandal, Bush and White House press secretary Scott McClellan promised that anyone involved in the leak would be fired. But at a July 18 press conference, Bush revised his promise, pledging only to fire those leakers whose actions were illegal. While reporters at CBS, NBC, and CNN pointed out this shift in their nightly news programs, Yellin did not.
From the July 18 broadcast of ABC's World News Tonight:
CHARLES GIBSON (anchor): In Washington today, President Bush addressed questions about his senior adviser, Karl Rove. Mr. Rove has been under increasing scrutiny since revelations about his role in an ongoing investigation into who leaked the name of a CIA officer. That leak came in connection with an article written by the CIA officer's husband, ambassador Joe Wilson, who had been sent to Africa to investigate claims about Iraq and uranium. Here's ABC's Jessica Yellin.
YELLIN: Today, President Bush pledged to fire any aides who committed a crime in the CIA leak case.
BUSH (clip from press conference): I would like this to end as quickly as possible so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration.
From the July 18 broadcast of the CBS Evening News:
JOHN ROBERTS (anchor): President Bush once said that he would fire anyone in his administration involved in leaking the identity of a CIA operative. Then over the weekend Matt Cooper of Time magazine revealed he learned the identity of a CIA operative from the president's top political strategist, now deputy chief of staff, Karl Rove. Today, when Mr. Bush was asked about all this, he clarified his position, indicating a leak alone would not be enough to get someone fired.
[clip from press conference]
TERENCE HUNT (Associated Press White House correspondent): Regardless of whether a crime was committed, do you still intend to fire anyone found to be involved in the CIA leak case?
BUSH: I don't know all the facts. I want to know all the facts. Best place for the facts to be done is by somebody who's spending time investigating it. I would like this to end as quickly as possible, so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration.
From the July 18 broadcast of NBC's Nightly News:
DAVID GREGORY (NBC News chief White House correspondent): With the leak investigation casting a shadow over the president's official agenda, today Mr. Bush said again he would take the special prosecutor's findings seriously.
BUSH: I would like this to end this quickly as possible so we know the facts, and if someone committed a crime, they will no longer work in my administration.
GREGORY: Two years ago, Mr. Bush also said he would dismiss anyone who violated the law, but last summer the president issued a broader pledge to fire anyone who leaked Valerie Plame's name.
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: And, do you stand by your pledge to fire anyone found to have done so?
From the July 18 edition of CNN's NewsNight with Aaron Brown:
BROWN: Well, it's not exactly setting the bar real high, if someone is convicted of a crime you get tossed.
JEFF GREENFIELD (CNN senior analyst): But it's also a change.
BROWN: It is absolutely a change.