Fox News personalities serve up a host of CIA leak falsehoods, taking cue from misleading Wash. Post editorial

››› ››› ROB MORLINO

Fox News anchors and commentators seized upon a Washington Post editorial falsely asserting that the revelation that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was the original source for syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak's column exposing CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity disproved the notion of a coordinated effort within the White House to discredit former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, using the occasion to repeat a host of false claims about the CIA leak case.

Fox News anchors and commentators seized upon a September 1 Washington Post editorial that asserted -- falsely, as Media Matters for America noted -- that the revelation that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage was the original source for syndicated columnist Robert D. Novak's column exposing CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity disproved the notion of a coordinated effort within the White House to discredit former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, using the occasion to repeat a host of false claims about the CIA leak case. During the September 1 editions of Hannity & Colmes and Special Report with Brit Hume, the September 2 edition of Beltway Boys, the September 3 edition of Fox News Sunday and the September 5 edition of The Big Story with John Gibson, Fox News personalities repeated a host of false claims that Media Matters has repeatedly debunked over the course of the three-year-old investigation into who outed Plame.

  • Claim: Armitage role as Novak's first source disproves the allegation of a coordinated effort within the White House against Wilson and Plame.

"[F]inally now we see that his central theory in the case, that this was an evil White House conspiracy to smear [Wilson] and his wife, is also false." -- Guest host Rich Lowry, Hannity & Colmes

"I say that -- put 'leak' in parenthesis, because there really was no leak. What this means -- what the picture is that, Mort, is that there was really no conspiracy among White House aides to smear Joe Wilson." -- Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes, The Beltway Boys

"But the Post made the point, the right one, that the conspiracy charge was always a phony, and now it's been shown to be a phony." -- Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, Special Report with Brit Hume

Reality: White House senior adviser Karl Rove and former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby were reportedly the original sources of the information regarding Plame's classified CIA employment for at least two reporters during the summer of 2003, as Media Matters has repeatedly noted. Armitage's role in the leak is explored in the forthcoming book, Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War (Crown), by Newsweek investigative correspondent Michael Isikoff and The Nation Washington editor David Corn. A Newsweek article by Isikoff based on the book and posted on the magazine's website on August 27 reported that Armitage was Novak's primary source for his July 14, 2003, column, which first publicly identified Plame as a CIA operative. Corn noted in an August 27 entry on his Capital Games weblog for The Nation that Armitage's role in the Plame leak "abetted a White House campaign under way to undermine Wilson" and that whether or not Armitage deliberately leaked Plame's identity, "the public role is without question: senior White House aides wanted to use Valerie Wilson's CIA employment against her husband." Thus, the revelation about Armitage does not undermine the allegation presented in court filings submitted by special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald that there was a "concerted action" by "multiple people in the White House" to "discredit, punish, or seek revenge against" Wilson.

  • Claim: Plame was responsible for sending Wilson to Niger, a fact that Wilson subsequently lied about.

"[Wilson] lied or was misleading about whether Dick Cheney had sent him on a mission. He lied or was misleading about whether his wife had any role in sending him on this trip." -- Lowry, Hannity & Colmes

"And of course, it turned out his wife had arranged the whole -- the whole visit." -- Barnes, Beltway Boys

"And it turned out -- it turned out that Joe Wilson went to Niger, not because Dick Cheney sent him, but because his wife sent him." -- Republican strategist Terry Holt, Hannity & Colmes

"The reason people stress the wife is because it was a way to refute the charge that Cheney had sent him. It was his wife who sent him." -- Krauthammer, Special Report

Reality: As Media Matters previously noted, various intelligence officials dispute the allegation that Wilson's wife was responsible for his being sent to Niger. An October 25, 2005, Washington Post article reported that "[t]he CIA has always said ... that Plame's superiors chose Wilson for the Niger trip and she only relayed their decision." As Media Matters also noted, unnamed intelligence officials quoted in the media assert that the CIA -- not Plame -- selected Wilson for the mission to Niger. Further, CIA officials have disputed the accuracy of a State Department intelligence memo that reportedly indicates that Plame "suggested" Wilson's name for the trip. Also, as Media Matters has noted, Wilson never said that Cheney sent him to Niger. This allegation was first advanced by the Republican National Committee (RNC), which misrepresented Wilson's Times op-ed and distorted a remark he made in an August 3, 2003, interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer. In fact, Wilson clearly stated in the op-ed that "agency officials" had requested he travel to Niger, and during his CNN appearance, he stated it was "absolutely true" that Cheney was unaware he went on the trip.

  • Claim: Wilson's claim that his report debunked the administration's claim that Iraq sought uranium from Niger was itself false, as evidenced by the Senate Intelligence Committee and others.

"[Wilson] lied or was misleading about what he actually found in Niger." -- Lowry, Hannity & Colmes

"His credibility -- first, you know, saying that somehow that Iraq had not been seeking yellowcake uranium in Niger turned out to be wrong, and so that's at the base of his credibility." -- NPR senior correspondent Juan Williams, Fox News Sunday

"Wilson had put out the story that Cheney had sent him, that he had come back with a report that there were no -- that the story about Iraq and Niger was wrong and then Cheney had then ignored his report and put those 16 words [about Saddam Hussein seeking uranium from Africa] in the [2003] State of the Union Address. Every element in that story was false." -- Krauthammer, Special Report

"The Senate Intelligence Committee went through lie after lie that he told, and he came out of that completely discredited though the media didn't pay much attention to that." -- Barnes, Special Report

"And those are leading members of the news media who continued to take Joe Wilson's charges seriously even after they had been discredited by the Senate Intelligence Committee and others and who have stayed on this story, believing there was something there, all this time until now." -- Fox News Washington managing editor Brit Hume, Fox News Sunday

Reality: As Media Matters has noted, while the CIA initially interpreted Wilson's findings as confirmation of Iraq's supposed efforts to acquire uranium from Niger, the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) interpreted his findings as confirmation that the Niger claim was not credible. As Media Matters further noted, the Senate Intelligence Committee reached no conclusion about the credibility of Wilson's July 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed describing his fact-finding mission to Niger.

From the September 1 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes:

LOWRY: Welcome back to Hannity & Colmes. I'm Rich Lowry, in tonight for Sean Hannity. Allegations that the Bush White House orchestrated a leak of former ambassador Joe Wilson's wife's identity as revenge for Wilson's criticism of administration policy in Iraq led to the appointment of a special prosecutor, a costly investigation, and the indictment of the vice president's chief of staff on perjury charges. But today's Washington Post editorial calls the allegations against the administration untrue. Has the time come for former ambassador Joe Wilson to apologize? Joining us now are Republican strategist Terry Holt and Democratic strategist Rich Masters. Gentlemen, thanks so much for joining us.

HOLT: Hey, Rich.

MASTERS: Hey, Rich.

LOWRY: Rich, let me start with you. Joe Wilson, let's look at his record here. He lied or was misleading about what he actually found in Niger. He lied or was misleading about whether Dick Cheney had sent him on the mission. He lied or was misleading about whether his wife had any role in sending him on this trip. And finally now, we see that his central theory in the case, that this was an evil White House conspiracy to smear him and his wife, is also false. Shouldn't the Democrats be embarrassed -- embarrassed, Rich -- at ever cozying up with this character?

MASTERS: Absolutely not. I mean, let's actually look at some other facts, you know? The fact that, I mean, Karl Rove in a Texas campaign bugged his own office and then called a news conference to blame the opposition --

LOWRY: Well, we're talking about the Plame case. We're talking about the Plame case, Rich.

MASTERS: and then -- look I know -- but let me -- let me finish -- let me -- let me finish my thought.

LOWRY: Classic tactic of changing the subject.

MASTERS: No, I'm -- let me finish -- if you'd let me finish my thought, Rich, I'd be happy to.

LOWRY: OK. Finish your thought.

MASTERS: I mean, the truth of it is, it's not a stretch to think a guy that would go to those depths, that kind of sleaze, and he has become world famous for the kind of sleazy campaign he runs -

LOWRY: Rich, this is just character assassination.

MASTERS: And for -- no, no, no -- I mean -- well, listen --

LOWRY: This is -- yeah, sure, it is. Sure, it is. Look, Rich --

MASTERS: You asked me a question. It's not a stretch --

LOWRY: Yes, yes. So are -- you're not embarrassed by Joe Wilson?

MASTERS: -- for Joe Wilson or Democrats or the American people --

LOWRY: You think Joe Wilson --

MASTERS: -- to wonder whether or not Karl Rove in this White House had anything to do with it.

LOWRY: Rich, you think Joe Wilson is a reputable guy, told the truth about this, had no ego issues, didn't enjoy the attention --

MASTERS: I'm not -- listen --

LOWRY: -- was a great, patriotic, truth-telling American, Joe Wilson?

ALAN COLMES (co-host): Yes, he is.

MASTERS: I am not here to defend Joe Wilson. What I am here to say --

LOWRY: Good. That's -- You're a wise man.

MASTERS: -- is there was discussions going on in the White House --

LOWRY: Let me say you're a wise man, because it's indefensible. Rich, let me get Terry in here.

MASTERS: Well, you talked over everything I said, Rich.

LOWRY: Well, OK. Rich, you say Karl Rove is an evil, bad guy, but let's look at the Plame evidence, Terry. They said this was a White House conspiracy. We now know, through the reporting of one of the left-wing journalists who created this thing in the first place, David Corn, that it was a State Department official who actually didn't like the White House at all who innocently leaked this material. Doesn't this blow away this whole case, and that's one of the reasons Rich doesn't want to talk about it?

COLMES: He did talk about it.

MASTERS: I did talk about it. You wouldn't let me.

HOLT: Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame -- this is "talk over each other" night on Hannity & Colmes? This is -- this couple are frauds. They're charlatans.

COLMES: That's character assassination, Terry.

HOLT: And you know, Rich?

COLMES: That is a smear and a character assassination. That's exactly what you're doing.

HOLT: I want -- what's not fraud? They lied over and over again, Alan.

COLMES: No, they actually didn't lie. The Iraq Survey Group, the Duelfer group --

HOLT: They lied to the Senate committee last year.

COLMES: -- also said the same thing Wilson said. The Senate intelligence report, which said nowhere in the Niger conclusions does the SIC [Senate Intelligence Committee] report say Iraq was, in fact, trying to get uranium from Niger.

HOLT: You guys should stop defending him.

COLMES: You're assassinating his character. Why?

HOLT: Alan, Alan -- stop defending -- because he's eaten out on this story for three years. He turned this nation upside down in a Watergate-style investigation --

COLMES: Because he was smeared by the Bush administration --

HOLT: -- over three years.

COLMES: -- who were out to get him. Let me point out --

HOLT: Millions of dollars have -- Alan, come on, please, this is an interview show.

COLMES: Yeah, well, you know what?

HOLT: Millions of dollars have been spent.

COLMES: Yeah.

HOLT: I want my money back.

COLMES: And Fitzgerald --

HOLT: The Washington Post today said --

COLMES: Yeah.

HOLT: -- "Oops, never mind." After three years --

COLMES: I'm so glad to hear conservatives defend the Washington Post.

HOLT: Alan, my goodness, you just have to let this go and say --

COLMES: The evil, liberal Washington Post.

HOLT: -- my goodness, we've got to let this -- goodness.

COLMES: Terry, Fitzgerald wrote in his court filings --

HOLT: Goodness.

COLMES: -- released on April 6th -- he wrote, "It's hard to conceive of what evidence there could be that would disprove the existence of White House efforts to punish Wilson." And this guy, Armitage, was only one source --

HOLT: Right.

COLMES: -- because Rove and Libby were reportedly the original sources of information for at least two reporters, [then-New York Times reporter Judith] Miller and [then-Time reporter Matthew] Cooper. So you're ignoring that whole part of the story.

HOLT: You're unraveling what is the basic thing here: Was there a conspiracy or not?

COLMES: Yes.

HOLT: No.

MASTERS: Yes.

HOLT: And, in fact, The Washington Post, one of the most liberal newspapers in the country, a newspaper that put this story on the front page over and over, day after day, tried to change the outcome of an election over it, finally says, "Oops, we got it wrong."

COLMES: Why, Rich Masters, you got to wonder, then did Lewis Libby --

HOLT: And everybody -- everybody's surprised --

COLMES: -- why is he accused of perjuring himself --

HOLT: -- and it turned out -- it turned out that Joe Wilson went to Niger, not because Dick Cheney sent him, but because his wife sent him.

COLMES: Well, he never claimed that his wife sent him.

HOLT: I think we ought to charge this guy with nepotism.

[crosstalk]

COLMES: He said his wife may have suggested him. His wife didn't have the authority to make the ultimate decision to send him. Rich Masters, I go back to the question is -- why was Scooter Liberty [sic] then accused of perjuring himself?

MASTERS: Because he did perjure himself, apparently, according to all of the evidence that we've seen thus far. And let's look at some of the facts that even Scooter Libby has been admitting to.

HOLT: I'm not sure you've seen any evidence so far, Rich.

MASTERS: Please, let me finish. I didn't interrupt you.

HOLT: Have you seen the evidence? Because none of the rest of us have.

LOWRY: Rich, Rich, Hey, Rich, I'm so sorry, I have to interrupt you again because --

MASTERS: I haven't been able to say one thing without you talking.

LOWRY: -- Rich, we have to go to a break. Hey, guys, thanks so much for the debate. Have a great weekend.

From the September 1 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume:

ANGLE: The Washington Post today had a remarkable editorial; it notes that now that we know the first leak about administration critic Joe Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, came from State Department official Richard Armitage, who was not in the White House and was not a partisan gunslinger, "[i]t follows, then," the Post said, "that the most sensational charges leveled against the Bush White House -- that it orchestrated the leak of Ms. Plame's identity to ruin her career and thus punish Mr. Wilson -- is untrue." Which brought this comment from Joe Wilson and Valerie Plame's lawyer, who has filed a lawsuit against administration officials.

MELANIE SLONE (attorney for Wilson) [video clip]: Mr. Armitage didn't know she was a covert operative, and the suit is predicated on the concept that there was a conspiracy between high-level White House officials to publicly discredit Joseph Wilson by outing Valerie Wilson as an undercover CIA officer. If Mr. Armitage didn't know that she was an undercover officer, then he wasn't part of that conspiracy.

ANGLE: So, the Post says basically this controversy is over, but not so fast. Now some analytical observations from Fred Barnes, executive editor of The Weekly Standard; Mort Kondracke, executive editor of Roll Call; and the syndicated columnist, Charles Krauthammer, Fox News contributors all. So, Charles, the Post essentially says never mind about this story that has consumed Washington for the last three years, that there was some major conspiracy in the White House to discredit -- unfairly discredit Joe Wilson and to punish him by punishing his wife.

KRAUTHAMMER: But the Post made the point, the right one, that the conspiracy charge was always a phony and now it's been shown to be a phony. Look, it was all -- the simplest explanation here was always the true and obvious one, which was people were asking how did this washed-up, ex-ambassador without any special qualities end up on a sensitive mission in Niger, and the answer was, as Armitage had said, innocently, he wasn't in a conspiracy, well, his wife sent him, that's what -- wife's in the CIA and she sent him. That's how it started. And the fact that others repeated it is not that it was a conspiracy to discredit him, it was that Wilson had put out the story that Cheney had sent him, that he had come back with a report that there were no -- that the story about Iraq and Niger was wrong and that Cheney had then ignored his report and put those 16 words in the State of the Union address. Every element in that story was false. The reason people stress the wife is because it was a way to refute the charge that Cheney had sent him. It was his wife who sent him.

ANGLE: To explain why he was sent. Now, he did find that Iraq had not been able to acquire any uranium, Mort, but he also found evidence, which he did not include in his op-ed piece, that some Iraqi officials had come looking.

KONDRACKE: Right.

ANGLE: But aside from all of that, in this whole matter, the lawyers for Wilson and Plame seem to make a lot out of the fact that Armitage didn't know that she was undercover which, of course, is a violation of law if you expose someone --

KONDRACKE: Well I don't think we know that Karl Rove knew, and I assume that Scooter Libby may have known but he may have -- you know, she was not a covert officer, she was not a covert agent, and she was not covered by the intelligence agent's identities act. So, all of that is beside the point. Now, her career was ruined --

ANGLE: She was referred by the CIA, though, that case was referred?

KONDRACKE: Yeah, it was referred, that's true. But there is no -- it's interesting.

ANGLE: But no one was charged.

KONDRACKE: That same lawyer was asked by Byron York of the National Review -- well, remember that Armitage also told Bob Woodward of The Washington Post about this and she said oh, but Bob Woodward never published it. Well, the fact is Judy Miller, who Scooter Libby talked to, never published it and the word was already out, I believe, when Karl Rove talked to Matt Cooper of Time magazine. So, I don't know where they think that they're going to find a conspiracy case here.

BARNES: Well, look, it shows, look, if she doesn't want Armitage in there -- I mean, it shows it's a purely political lawsuit against the Bush White House and Karl Rove and Ed Libby [sic] and Cheney, in particular. That's what it is. I think it'll get nowhere, but that is what it is. You know, the other aspect of this that the Post didn't touch on because they -- the Post was a big offender -- is that newspapers and reporters and commentators and TV people fell hook, line, and sinker for the charlatan Joe Wilson. They would run stories on the front page saying -- using his charges that Karl Rove had leaked this story. He had no way of knowing that. Turned out it wasn't true. And yet, this went on for three years, people taking seriously -- the media, the Washington Post, and The New York Times, in particular -- taking seriously these wild and reckless and unfounded charges by Joe Wilson. You know who first exposed them? It was the Senate a year ago. The Senate Intelligence Committee went through lie after lie that he told, and he came out of that completely discredited, though the media didn't pay much attention to that.

KONDRACKE: The press treated this as Watergate. They thought -- and it was front-page story after front-page story. The Washington Post ran the story that -- about this book that, the new book that's out about Armitage, way back in the paper. This was the second-level editorial in today's Washington Post. I gather that The New York Times is finally going to publish a story about this tomorrow, apparently conveying the -- I don't know whether they've talked to Armitage, I gather that he's considering whether to speak in public, but they're gonna convey the Armitage view that what the State Department did was to talk to the Justice Department, talk to the White House, and talk to the FBI, and the grand jury and that that's all they had to do.

ANGLE: Final word?

KRAUTHAMMER: The scandal here is that Wilson, who told lie after lie, is out there having a good time. Scooter Libby's life has been ruined. I think that the president ought to pardon him, and the sooner the better.

ANGLE: Well, there'll be the next controversy.

From the September 2 edition of Fox News' The Beltway Boys:

BARNES: Welcome back to The Beltway Boys. Let's check out our "Ups and Downs" for the week. Down: former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. It was revealed this week that Armitage, not Karl Rove or Scooter Libby, was Robert Novak's source in the CIA leak case. I say put "leak" in parentheses, because there really was no leak. What this means -- what the bigger picture is that, Mort, is that there was really no conspiracy among White House aides to smear Joe Wilson -- you know, you remember Joe Wilson was the guy who went off to Africa to decide -- Niger in Africa to see if Iraq had been seeking uranium there, so-called "yellowcake." Came back to the U.S., said that wasn't true. And then wrote a piece for The New York Times in which he accused President Bush of lying in the State of the Union address in 2003, when -- when the president said, indeed Iraq had been seeking uranium in Africa. Well, we know now that -- that Wilson was wrong, and he was particularly wrong in his accusation of the White House, that the White House had leaked the name of his wife, Valerie Plame, who was a CIA official, in order -- in order to punish him, smear him, out her -- really payback to him.

KONDRACKE: So why is Armitage down?

BARNES: Well, no, no, no, I'll get to that. But I -- I want to get first -- it turns out, and I think The Washington Post is right in saying that it was Wilson who actually outed her. He made himself a highly visible figure, talking about his trip to Niger. And people will wonder why -- Well, why is he going there? Some ex-ambassador. And of course, it turned out his wife had arranged the whole -- the whole visit. Here's what The Washington Post said in an editorial on Friday. "He (Joe Wilson) diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It's unfortunate that so many people took him seriously." Including The Washington Post, for that matter. But you ask a good question: Why Armitage? Because Armitage was the guy who -- who did first reveal her name to Bob Novak, who put it in -- in the column. He -- he told the FBI that he'd done that in 2003. And then for three years, allowed people like Karl Rove and Scooter Libby to twist in the wind while everybody accused them -- or at least they were the suspects in the supposed leak.

KONDRACKE: Yeah, well, if and when --

BARNES: That wasn't a nice thing to do, by the way --

KONDRACKE: Yeah. If and when --

BARNES: -- what Armitage did.

KONDRACKE: If and when -- if and when Armitage ever goes public with this, and he should --

BARNES: Yup.

KONDRACKE: -- I think his -- his version of events will be something like this: I went to my boss, Colin Powell, the secretary of state. We called in the general counsel of the State Department, Will Taft. Taft called the Justice Department and said -- it reported that Armitage had -- had done this. Taft called the White House, Alberto Gonzales, and explained in general terms that they -- that they'd talked to the Justice Department. And Gonzales asked no further questions. Of course, they didn't volunteer anything. They testified -- they -- they told Patrick Fitzgerald, the special counsel, about all this. They testified before a grand jury. And that Fitzgerald told them, "Shut up. Don't -- don't talk to anybody this." Now, I still think that Armitage should have found a way not to let Karl Rove and Scooter Libby hang high and dry in all this. But look, I think the -- among all the bad actors in this case, and there are many, the worst is the media. I mean, the media fastened on this case; made it a Page 1 story. Pretended it was Watergate.

BARNES: Yeah.

KONDRACKE: And now that the story has dissolved, they haven't moved to correct the record, at least not on Page 1.

BARNES: Look, this was a willful act by the press to fall for the charlatan Joe Wilson because they -- because they used him to hammer Bush.

KONDRACKE: Yeah, exactly.

[...]

BARNES: Well, look it's always been China that could have some real leverage with North -- North Korea. Not the U.S. Mort, the big buzz around Washington, of course, is Armitage and -- and that he was the original guy who revealed Valerie Plame's name and everything. Here's my recommendation for what needs to happen now: One, some apologies. I think Armitage needs to apologize to all those folks at the White House. Two, I think the press needs to really come up with long stories correcting what they've reported before. Three, I think the charges against Scooter Libby need to be dropped. And four, it's time for Patrick Fitzgerald, the special prosecutor, to shut down his operation and get out of down. There is no -- he -- he -- he -- he has no case. All he's doing is reminding people in Washington like you and myself that having a special prosecutor is a bad idea, because they run amuck. They -- he -- he should have left town a long time ago.

KONDRACKE: Amen.

From the September 3 edition of Fox Broadcasting Co.'s Fox News Sunday:

CHRIS WALLACE (host): All right. And finally, Senator [Charles] Schumer [D-NY], on another matter, you have gone after the White House and Karl Rove for years for allegedly leaking the name of CIA officer Valerie Plame. You said it appears likely that he, Rove, was the source of the leak that outed her, that he no longer deserved the benefit of the doubt. You talked about him having to give back his security pass. Now that it has been established that it was not Rove, it was Richard Armitage, the deputy secretary of state at the time -- that he was the primary source for the story, Senator Schumer, do you owe Karl Rove and the White House an apology?

SCHUMER: No, absolutely not. I mean, first of all, it has been determined not only that Armitage mentioned it, and that hasn't been fully determined yet, but that Rove did as well. And let me tell you, again, what -- for whoever did it, for whatever reason, the act of putting the name of somebody who risked their life for the country and the people who helped that person is a dastardly act. And there hasn't been a real apology from the White House. There hasn't been a real study as to how it happened and what to do to prevent it.

WALLACE: But, Senator Schumer, it apparently was -- you say a dastardly act, and you've talked about it as being a crime. The fact is the federal prosecutor, special prosecutor Fitzgerald, looked at it for months and decided to let Armitage go, did nothing.

SCHUMER: It didn't -- It didn't --

WALLACE: And in fact, he let Karl Rove go --

SCHUMER: It didn't --

WALLACE: -- and said he was not guilty of any crime.

[...]

ELISABETH BUMILLER (New York Times White House correspondent): But without saying anything -- I mean, first of all, I just want to say I'm opposed to all leak investigations. As a reporter in Washington, I like leaks. I don't care what kind they are. We like leaks. That's how we find things out. And so let me just say that. But secondly, to answer your question, I think there were other people who had talked to reporters, and that was what he was after, was, you know, it turned out Karl Rove did talk to reporters, Scooter Libby did talk to reporters. And that's what he was looking for.

HUME: The problem with that is that the only so-called leak -- and I don't believe that for any meaningful purpose there ever was a leak. I think Armitage's so-called leak was entirely innocent. But the fact is, the only one that made a difference, without which none of this would have happened, was the Armitage comment to Novak. Novak was the one who revealed the identity of Valerie Plame, Joe Wilson's wife, as being CIA. That was the only one that had any consequential effect. Other reporters heard about it, but they never did anything with it because it didn't occur to them or it didn't happen. So the only effective release of this information that made a difference was that one. Once he knew how that one had come about, the investigation, in my view, should have been over.

WALLACE: Let me move on. Let me move on, Juan, and I'll bring you up here to the next player in all of this, and that is Joe Wilson, the aggrieved husband of Valerie Plame. In an editorial this week, The Washington Post, which ran with the story just as much as anybody else did -- in this editorial, the Post said, "It now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson, her husband." Question: Where does Joe Wilson's credibility stand now?

WILLIAMS: His credibility -- first, you know, saying that somehow that Iraq had not been seeking yellowcake uranium in Niger turned out to be wrong, and so that's at the base of his credibility. I think that hurts, because he, in the piece, made the suggestion somehow that he had undermined the basis for the pre-war intelligence as it was being gathered by the White House.

[...]

KRISTOL: Rebutting your critics is a legal thing to do.

WILLIAMS: Correct.

KRISTOL: And this was criminalized. Scooter Libby has been indicted for something that was not a crime and for a leak that he was not responsible for.

WALLACE: All right. Now, that brings us -- thank you very much, Mr. Kristol.

KRISTOL: I do my best for you.

WALLACE: To the final player and the person who's really been punished, the only one so far who's really been punished in this whole thing, Scooter Libby, the vice president's former chief of staff, because he's the one who's been charged and now has to pay huge legal fees trying to defend himself on charges of obstruction of justice and perjury.

KRISTOL: Bush was not told by Powell or Armitage who the source of the leak was. [Former Attorney General John] Ashcroft appointed an independent counsel who got totally out of control. He had to indict someone, I suppose he felt, in December of 2003, which never should have happened. Bush should pardon Libby. He should do it now. It would be fantastic. The Democrats would go crazy. We could have a debate for two months about whether once you criminalize what was a totally innocent attempt to respond to, as Juan said, a mendacious critic of the administration -- it's really an outrage that the one guy indicted here is Libby. And the outrage is that criminalizing works, you know? I mean, he was forced to leave the White House --

BUMILLER: But we are still talking about disclosing someone's identity that -- that it's still in the gray area of possibly being a crime. So I think it's not as innocent --

KRISTOL: No. But has Libby been charged with that crime? No. There's no underlying crime.

HUME: No one has. No one has been charged.

WALLACE: But he has been charged with lying to a grand jury. And if he lied to a grand jury --

BUMILLER: He's been charged with perjury. He has been --

KRISTOL: And the things he allegedly forgot about are much less consequential than what Richard Armitage forgot. Richard Armitage forgot for three months that he had talked to Novak. He forgot for two years that he had talked to Bob Woodward three weeks before he talked to Novak. Richard Armitage has not been indicted, and he shouldn't be. The idea that Libby's indicted for less serious --

WILLIAMS: Did he lie? Did he lie or didn't he lie?

KRISTOL: No, he didn't lie, in any serious meaning of lying before a grand jury.

HUME: One last -- there are a couple of other players that remain unmentioned.

WALLACE: We've got 20 seconds left.

HUME: And those are leading members of the news media who continued to take Joe Wilson's charges seriously even after they had been discredited by the Senate Intelligence Committee and others and who have stayed on this story, believing there was something there, all this time until now.

From the September 5 edition of Fox News' The Big Story with John Gibson:

JOHN GIBSON (host): Now "My Word." I have said much over a very long period of time about former ambassador Joseph Wilson and his charge that his CIA analyst wife, Valerie Plame Wilson, was outed by the White House in retaliation against Joe Wilson. Wilson went public with his dispute with the White House over the crucial prewar question, was Saddam Hussein seeking nuke bomb material in Africa. The Washington Post revealed last week that the person who actually revealed Valerie Plame's name was Richard Armitage, a former State Department official who was not entirely on board with the Bush plans to invade Iraq -- hardly someone who would out her to punish her husband.

Today, The Washington Post editorial page said the following, and I quote: "It now appears that the person most responsible for the end of Ms. Plame's CIA career is Mr. Wilson, her husband. Mr. Wilson chose to go public with an explosive charge, claiming falsely as it turned out that he had debunked reports of Iraqi uranium shopping in Niger and that his report had circulated to senior administration officials." The paper then picked up on a point I have been trying to make for months. "He ought to have expected that both those officials and journalists such as Mr. Robert Novak would ask why a retired ambassador would have been sent on such a mission, and that answer would point to his wife, Ms. Plame." Wilson knew this, and the Post accuses Wilson directly by saying "he diverted responsibility from himself and his false charges by claiming that President Bush's closest aides had engaged in an illegal conspiracy. It is unfortunate that so many people took him seriously," close quote, Washington Post.

It is unfortunate, but so much for Joe Wilson and frogging -- frog-marching Karl Rove across the White House lawn. On some days, they really hit the nail on the head over there at the Post, don't they?

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