Blitzer missed opportunity to ask Bennett about his comment that Pulitzer-winning reporters should be jailed

››› ››› JOSH KALVEN

On CNN's The Situation Room, Wolf Blitzer discussed the growing calls for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation with CNN political analysts William Bennett and Donna Brazile. But Blitzer failed to ask Bennett about his remark earlier in the day that New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau and Washington Post staff writer Dana Priest -- who won Pulitzer Prizes for their reporting on Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program and the CIA's use of secret interrogation sites -- should be jailed. "I don't think what they did was worthy of an award," Bennett said on his radio show. "I think what they did was worthy of jail."

On the April 18 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, host Wolf Blitzer discussed the growing calls for Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld's resignation with CNN political analysts William Bennett and Donna Brazile. But at no point in the so-called "Strategy Session" did Blitzer take the opportunity to ask Bennett about his remark earlier in the day that New York Times reporters James Risen and Eric Lichtblau and Washington Post staff writer Dana Priest -- who won Pulitzer Prizes on April 17 -- should be jailed. "I don't think what they did is worthy of an award," Bennett said on the April 18 edition of his nationally syndicated radio show. "I think what they did is worthy of jail."

Risen and Lichtblau won a Pulitzer Prize for uncovering the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program. Priest's Pulitzer was for a November 2, 2005, article revealing the CIA's use of secret interrogation sites located around the world.

As blogger and attorney Glenn Greenwald noted, Bennett derided Risen, Lichtblau, and Priest for publishing leaked classified information "against the wishes of the president." He further argued that, rather than given awards, they should be arrested for violation of the Espionage Act.

From the April 18 broadcast of Salem Radio Network's Bill Bennett's Morning in America:

BENNETT: Here's what happened. We had reporters from The New York Times -- Risen and Lichtblau -- and a reporter from The Washington Post, Dana Priest -- took classified information, secret information, published it in their newspapers, against the wishes of the president, against the request of the president and others, that they not release it. They not only released it, they publicized it. They put it on the front page, and it damaged us, it hurt us. How do we know it damaged us? Well, it revealed the existence of the surveillance program, so people are going to stop making calls. Since they are now aware of this, they're going to adjust their behavior.

On the secret sites, the CIA sites, we embarrassed our allies, who were hospitable enough to offer up their countries for these sites. We probably closed up other possibilities for doing this in other places. And by her own admission, Dana Priest said the story is boomeranging around Europe. And so, it hurt us there and, of course, led more and more people to condemn the CIA -- makes it harder for them to do their work. As a result, are they punished? Are they in shame? Are they embarrassed? Are they arrested? No, they win Pulitzer Prizes. They win Pulitzer Prizes. I don't think what they did is worthy of an award. I think what they did is worthy of jail, and I think this investigation needs to -- needs to go forward.

Now, just to show you, I am not opposed to Pulitzer Prizes. I'm not opposed to Pulitzer Prizes to liberals. I'm not opposed to Pulitzer Prizes to liberals at The New York Times. They gave a Pulitzer Prize to [New York Times columnist] Nick Kristof for his reporting on Darfur, Sudan. You know what I think of that? Well deserved. Well deserved. I'll have him on this daggone show. He's a liberal, I'll have him on the daggone show. Because he deserves it, because he's done a great job on this. But these people who reveal our secrets, who hurt our war effort, who hurt the effort of our CIA, Porter Goss, who hurt the efforts of the president's people -- they shouldn't be given prizes and awards for this. They shouldn't be given prizes and awards for this. They should be looked into -- the Espionage Act, investigation of these leaks. I'm telling you, I'm hot.

Following Greenwald's original blog post on Bennett's claim that these reporters deserve to be jailed, Editor & Publisher issued an article highlighting the comment. Yet, when Bennett appeared on CNN several hours later, Blitzer failed to ask him a single question about it.

In September 2005, Media Matters for America questioned CNN's decision to hire Bennett as a commentator, noting his history of controversial statements, including his September 28, 2005, comment that "it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime ... you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."

Network/Outlet
CNN
Person
Wolf Blitzer, Bill Bennett
Show/Publication
The Situation Room, Bill Bennett's Morning in America
Stories/Interests
Propaganda/Noise Machine
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