Matthews on Rove: "It looks to me like he walked out like a gentleman"

››› ››› JEREMY HOLDEN

During the August 13 edition of MSNBC Live, while discussing Karl Rove's announcement that he is resigning as White House deputy chief of staff, MSNBC host Chris Matthews noted that Rove had disclosed then-CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity "to two different reporters," while NBC News Justice Department correspondent Pete Williams said that Plame's husband, former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, "issued a statement today, saying ... this will forever be a black mark on the Bush presidency. That not only was Karl Rove never summarily dismissed -- which Joe Wilson thinks he should have been -- but that he's been able to leave on his own terms to praise from the president." Matthews added, "That's true. Joe Wilson has said something that cannot be debated at this point. I think right, left, and center will agree that Karl Rove is leaving on his own two feet." Matthews continued: "[I]t looks to me like he walked out like a gentleman, with the full embrace of our president." But while reporting that Wilson "thinks" Rove should have been fired, neither Williams nor Matthews pointed out that the White House itself had previously pledged to fire anyone involved in the leak of Plame's identity.

As Media Matters for America has repeatedly documented, then-White House press secretary Scott McClellan told reporters on September 29, 2003, that the president would fire anyone who leaked Plame's identity: "The President has set high standards, the highest of standards for people in his administration. He's made it very clear to people in his administration that he expects them to adhere to the highest standards of conduct. If anyone in this administration was involved in it, they would no longer be in this administration." Indeed, according to the MSNBC's First Read, Wilson cited the White House pledge before noting that Rove "was not summarily dismissed": "Karl Rove's resignation signals the final chapter in the Bush administration's betrayal of the identity of a covert CIA officer. When this breach of national security occurred, the President promised the American people that anybody in his administration responsible for the leak would be removed. Rove, identified by the prosecutors as one of the leakers, not only was not summarily dismissed, but has been allowed to leave on his own terms, to praise from the President."

In recent years, Wilson has repeatedly called on Bush to "keep his word to the American people and fire Karl Rove." For instance, on the October 31, 2005, edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Wilson said, "I think that Karl Rove should be fired. I think that this idea that you can, with impunity, call journalists and leak national security information is repugnant." More recently, during a March 6 interview on CNN's Anderson Cooper 360, Cooper asked: "Does the president of the United States have some answering to do? Earlier he had said -- years ago, he had said that anyone caught leaking would be dealt with." Wilson responded: "Well, I'd like the president to live up to his word, yes. I think the one person who remains employed by the U.S. government, who was a leaker, known to be a leaker was Karl Rove. So I certainly think that he should be fired."

From the 11 a.m. ET hour of the August 13 edition of MSNBC Live:

MATTHEWS: I remember former Ambassador Joe Wilson saying how he expected Karl Rove to be -- what was it? -- frog-walked --

WILLIAMS: Frog-marched.

MATTHEWS: -- frog-marched --

WILLIAMS: Frog-marched. Right.

MATTHEWS: -- the way you are when you're in shackles and yellow-suited. Do you think that there'll always be a question as to why he was not indicted, but Scooter Libby was, when the record has shown that he did leak to two different reporters, Matt Cooper and I believe to Bob Novak, of course, or at least he supported a leak if you want to put it that way.

WILLIAMS: And Judith Miller of The New York Times. He talked to her, as well. But, I guess the answer is that nobody was ever indicted for leaking the name. What got Scooter Libby in trouble was the allegation that he lied to the grand jury about what he did.

By the way, Joe Wilson has issued a statement today, saying that this is a black -- this will forever be a black mark on the Bush presidency. That not only was Karl Rove never summarily dismissed -- which Joe Wilson thinks he should have been -- but that he's been allowed to leave on his own terms to praise from the president.

MATTHEWS: That's true. Joe Wilson has said something that cannot be debated at this point. I think right, left, and center will agree that Karl Rove is leaving on his own two feet, and I didn't see any shackles today, Pete.

WILLIAMS: No frog-marching.

MATTHEWS: So, it looks to me like he walked out like a gentleman, with the full embrace of our president.

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Chris Matthews
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CIA Leak Investigation
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