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On the November 13 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources, host Howard Kurtz defended CBS News chief White House correspondent John Roberts, who called White House press secretary Scott McClellan a "truth-teller" and "stand-up guy" on the November 6 edition of Reliable Sources. Roberts's November 6 comments came in response to a question from Kurtz, who had asked if Roberts believed that "Scott McClellan owes the press and the public an apology for his -- what turned out to be misleading denial in the CIA leak case." During an October 7, 2003, press briefing, McClellan said that White House senior adviser Karl Rove and former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby were "not involved" in the alleged leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity. Libby was indicted October 28 on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements in connection with his involvement in the leak, and although Rove has not been indicted, reports clearly indicate he was involved in the leak.
Responding to viewers who were critical of Roberts's comments, Kurtz said on the November 13 Reliable Sources: "For the record, what John Roberts was trying to say was that Scott McClellan didn't deliberately lie or mislead, but that he was given bad information by his colleagues."
Media Matters for America highlighted Roberts's remarks in a November 7 item.
From the November 13 edition of CNN's Reliable Sources:
KURTZ: We got lots of feedback on last week's show after I asked CBS' John Roberts whether White House spokesman Scott McClellan owes the press and the public for an apology for what turned out to be erroneous denials that Scooter Libby and Karl Rove had any involvement in the CIA leak case. Here's what Roberts had to say:
ROBERTS (video clip): I think that he's a truth-teller. I think he's a stand-up guy. And I just think that he was told to carry somebody else's water. And it just turned out that that water was foul.
KURTZ: Ann of Brainerd, Minnesota, wrote, "Since when is it the job of reporters to carry water for and vouch for the president's press secretary?" Judy of Cleveland said, "This guy (McClellan), attacks reporters and accuses them of bias when his whole job is nothing but bias. Stand-up guy? Please." And C. Crutchfield of Washington, D.C., wrote, "I think that if Mr. Roberts can't distinguish between a truth-teller and a liar, he need not be on Reliable Sources." For the record, what John Roberts was trying to say was that Scott McClellan didn't deliberately lie or mislead, but that he was given bad information by his colleagues.