In covering the aftermath of the indictment of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer parroted White House spin on the Bush administration's pledge to fire individuals involved in leaking the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame. On the October 31 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Blitzer stressed that President Bush promised to fire "anyone who committed a crime" in leaking Plame's identity. But, in fact, initial pledges by Bush and White House press secretary Scott McCellan were to fire anyone involved in the leak.
Blitzer made his comment during an interview with Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean, who asserted that President Bush should fire White House senior adviser Karl Rove. When Dean stated, "The president said anybody who leaks should be fired," Blitzer responded, "I think what the president also said was anyone who committed a crime should be fired." Blitzer's assertion echoes President Bush's statement, made at a July 18 press conference, that "if someone committed a crime [in leaking Plame's identity], they will no longer work in my administration." But as Media Matters for America has noted, Bush's July 18 statement was a departure from earlier promises by Bush and White House press secretary Scott McClellan to fire anyone involved in the leak. These promises were not contingent on whether individuals involved in the leak were found to have committed a crime. During a September 29, 2003, press briefing, McClellan twice told reporters that anyone involved in the leak would be fired; at a press conference the following day, Bush similarly promised to fire anyone who "leak[ed] classified information."
Publicly available information suggests that Rove falls in this category. The October 28 indictment of Libby states that at the time of the leak, "Valerie Wilson [Plame's married name] was employed by the CIA, and her employment status was classified," citing the fact that "[p]rior to July 14, 2003 [the date of a column in which syndicated writer Robert D. Novak first disclosed Plame's employment at the CIA], Valerie Wilson's affiliation with the CIA was not common knowledge outside the intelligence community." An email from Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper to Time Washington bureau chief Michael Duffy, subsequently released to the grand jury investigating the leak of Plame's identity, stated that Rove was the source who told Cooper about Plame's work for the CIA. Cooper later confirmed that Rove was his source in an article describing his grand jury testimony.
From the October 31 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:
DEAN: Karl Rove was exposed in the indictment as "Official A" who had in fact passed the name of the CIA agent on to columnists.
BLITZER: But Patrick Fitzgerald did not accuse him of committing any crime. And as far as leaking is concerned, he didn't accuse Scooter Libby or anyone else at the White House of committing a crime.
DEAN: Actually, in the indictment it talks about "Official A," who did in fact leak the information.
BLITZER: But he didn't say that was a crime.
DEAN: He didn't get indicted for it. But that's not what the president said. The president said anybody who leaks should be fired. I'd like to see the president keep his word.
BLITZER: I think what the president also said was anyone who committed a crime should be fired.
DEAN: That's what he said after it looked like Karl Rove leaked it, after Karl Rove lied to Scott McClellan.