On Hannity & Colmes, Novak produces yet another explanation for his claim -- later contradicted -- that his sources deliberately disclosed Plame's identity

››› ››› ROB MORLINO

On Hannity & Colmes, Robert Novak provided yet another explanation for the apparent contradiction between his assertion, as quoted in a 2003 Newsday article, that Bush administration officials had deliberately disclosed to him the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame and later statements that the disclosure had been "offhand." This time, Novak stated that Newsday had misquoted him.

During an interview on the July 12 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, Fox News political analyst and syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak provided yet another explanation for the apparent contradiction between his assertion, reported in a July 22, 2003, Newsday article, that Bush administration officials had deliberately disclosed to him the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, and his subsequent claims that the disclosure of her identity was inadvertent. This time, rather than characterizing his assertion in Newsday as not "very artfully put," Novak instead accused Newsday reporters Timothy M. Phelps and Knut Royce of misquoting him.

As Media Matters for America noted, Novak has subsequently contradicted his quote in the Newsday article, in which he was quoted as saying: "I didn't dig [Plame's identify] out, it was given to me. ... They [Novak's sources] thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it." In an interview on October 5, 2003, Meet the Press host Tim Russert asked Novak to explain the contradiction between his statement to Newsday and his claim in his October 1, 2003, column that the disclosure was an "offhand revelation." Novak responded that his statement to Newsday had not been "very artfully put," but that there existed "no inconsistency between those two."

In a column published July 12, in which Novak claimed that he would "reveal [his] role" in the Plame investigation, he wrote that his as-yet-undisclosed primary source for Plame's identity "told me through a third party that the disclosure was inadvertent on his part." The same day on Hannity & Colmes, Novak offered a new explanation for the difference between his statement to Newsday that the disclosure was deliberate and his later characterization of the disclosure as inadvertent: The Newsday account was a "misstatement," and "some of the things that they said that quoted me that are not in quotes are paraphrases, and they're incorrect, such as the whole idea that they planted this story with me. I never told that to the Newsday reporters."

In his original July 2003 column, Novak wrote that Plame was a CIA "operative" and that she had "suggested" sending her husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, on a 2002 CIA mission to investigate allegations that Iraq had tried to purchase uranium from Niger. Following the column's publication, Novak gave Newsday reporters Phelps and Royce an account of how he learned Plame's identity from the "two senior administration officials" he had cited in the column:

Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

On September 28, 2003, the Justice Department launched an investigation into the leak case. Noting that the story had "reached the front pages of major newspapers," Novak wrote an October 1, 2003, column in which his depiction of the leak appeared to conflict with the account he had provided to Phelps and Royce months earlier. He stressed that the administration official who disclosed Plame's identity had not come to him with the information but, rather, had in an "offhand" way mentioned her role at the CIA in response to questions regarding Wilson's selection for the mission:

During a long conversation with a senior administration official, I asked why Wilson was assigned the mission to Niger. He said Wilson had been sent by the CIA's counterproliferation section at the suggestion of one of its employees, his wife. It was an offhand revelation from this official, who is no partisan gunslinger.

In an October 5, 2003, interview on NBC's Meet the Press, Novak further emphasized that the official had mentioned Plame's role at the CIA "offhandedly":

NOVAK: So in interviewing a senior administration official on a number of other subjects, I asked him if he could explain why [Wilson was chosen for the mission], and he said, "Well, his wife works in the counterproliferation section at the CIA" and that she suggested his mission. And it was given to me as an offhand manner and by a person who is, as I wrote in the column, not a partisan gunslinger by any means.

[...]

I know when somebody's trying to plant a story. This thing -- this came up almost offhandedly in the course of a very long conversation with a senior official about many things, many things, including ambassador Wilson's report.

On Hannity & Colmes, after co-host Sean Hannity asked Novak how he viewed Wilson, Novak repeated the false claim that the Senate Intelligence Committee concluded in its 2004 report on prewar Iraq intelligence that Plame had been instrumental in selecting Wilson to travel to Niger. Novak's July 12 column also repeated that claim. Also during the Hannity & Colmes interview, Novak stated that there was "no Democratic dissent" in the committee's report. In fact, the report offered no conclusions as to whether Plame suggested Wilson for the trip, and the committee chairman, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), stated in an addendum to the report that committee Democrats had specifically opposed inclusion of an official finding on the subject. Novak has previously made the same false claims about the Senate report, including in an August 1, 2005, column. As Media Matters has also noted, CIA officials have disputed the assertion that Plame was instrumental in her husband's obtaining the assignment.

Indeed, Novak himself at one time accurately noted the committee's lack of a conclusion on the matter, in a July 15, 2004, column, writing: "They neither agreed to a conclusion that former diplomat Joseph Wilson was suggested for a mission to Niger by his CIA employee wife nor defended his statements to the contrary." Since then, however, Novak has consistently claimed that the Senate Intelligence Committee report "confirmed" Plame's role in the controversy.

Further, contrary to Novak's latest explanation, the Newsday article quoted Novak specifically on the issue of how he learned of Plame's identity:

Novak, in an interview, said his sources had come to him with the information. "I didn't dig it out, it was given to me," he said. "They thought it was significant, they gave me the name and I used it."

From the July 12 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

COLMES: Help me understand something, because you said in your piece today that you found out Valerie Plame's name originally by reading a Who's Who. And you're quoted in Newsday by Timothy Phelps and Knut Royce a while back as saying, "I didn't dig it out. It was given to me," meaning her name. "They thought it was significant. They gave me the name, and I used it." That sounds like contradictory statements.

NOVAK: Well, that was a misstatement. That was an interview I did on the telephone with Newsday shortly after it appeared. Some of the things that they said that quoted me that are not in quotes are paraphrases, and they're incorrect, such as the whole idea that they planted this story with me. I never told that to the Newsday reporters. But, as a matter of fact, let me assure you that neither my primary source gave -- mentioned Valerie Plame's name to me, nor did Karl Rove mention the name to me, nor did the CIA spokesman. They just talked about Joe Wilson's wife. I got her name from Who's Who.

[...]

NOVAK: Well, I am not interested in attacking Joe Wilson. He's attacked me all over the place. He hardly knows me. He knows nothing about me. But I, I am -- I really believe he has put out a tremendous amount of misinformation. And I think he is presently and for some time has been ignored, which is probably the harshest thing you can do to him.

HANNITY: And was championed by the Democrats and was a strong, staunch partisan, especially in the election. And --

NOVAK: Yes. And he kind of lost his seat in the [John] Kerry [presidential] campaign when the Senate Intelligence Committee came out -- granted it was a Republican majority, but there was no Democratic dissent -- in which they validated the premise of my column, for which I received from my original sources that Mrs. Wilson instituted the -- recommended his trip.

COLMES: Will we ever know your original source, Bob? Are we ever gonna know the name of the original source?

NOVAK: I bet you will.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Robert Novak
Show/Publication
Hannity & Colmes
Stories/Interests
CIA Leak Investigation
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