ABC Blames Karl Rove for Swift Boat Ads, All Nets Scold Him for Plame Leak

Reporting on the resignation of presidential political adviser Karl Rove, ABC's World News on Monday night absurdly blamed Karl Rove for the ads from Swift Boat Veterans for Truth and featured John Kerry's condemnation of Rove as all three broadcast network evening shows castigated Rove for his criticism of how Democrats want to coddle terrorists and highlighted his “leaking” of Valerie Plame's name. ABC's David Wright cited Rove's “political ju-jitzu” in “turning opponents' strengths against them.” With a Swift Boat ad clip on screen, Wright described a “sustained attack on John Kerry's war record, an audacious move considering Bush's Vietnam War record was weak.” Wright contended that Rove sometimes went “too far,” such as when “he accused the Democrats of offering therapy and understanding to our attackers. 9/11 families asked him to stop.” Rounding out Rove's offenses, Wright asserted that “he's been on the defensive over the leaking of a CIA agent's name as political payback against her husband, and for his part in the fired U.S. attorneys scandal.” Following Wright's report, anchor Charles Gibson showcased how Kerry “said he orchestrated a political strategy 'that promised to unite Americans but instead left us more divided than [ever] before.'”

On the CBS Evening News, which found the oldest video of Rove -- from 1972 -- Jim Axelrod stressed how “Rove survived five grand jury appearances during the Valerie Plame CIA leak case without being indicted. He's currently defying congressional subpoenas to testify about the fired U.S. attorneys.” Axelrod maintained Rove “lost some of his luster last year when painting the Democrats weak on terror and the Iraq war backfired, and the GOP lost the House and Senate.” NBC's Kelly O'Donnell recalled how “he enraged Democrats” by “accusing them of weakness after 9/11.”

Of course, the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth group was created by Vietnam veterans and funded by sources outside of the control of Rove or the campaign, mainly Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens. On the Plame case, once again, none of the network stories noted that while Rove may have mentioned her employer to reporters, it was Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's leak to columnist Robert Novak which got her name and CIA employment into the news media.

ABC, CBS and NBC all led Monday night with at least two segments each on Rove's resignation as of August 31. ABC began with Wright's piece and then Charles Gibson talked to George Stephanopoulos about it; CBS started with Jim Axelrod's story followed by a piece from Jeff Greenfield on how Rove aimed to create a permanent Republican majority and then Katie Couric interviewed Nicolle Wallace; Kelly O'Donnell launched NBC's coverage before Brian Williams discussed Rove with David Gregory, an in-studio guest since he's in Manhattan to co-host the Today show this week.

The MRC's Brad Wilmouth corrected the closed-captioning against the video for the entire August 13 Wright story on ABC as well as highlights from the Axelrod piece on CBS and O'Donnell's report for NBC (both of which included praise for Rove before getting to critics):

ABC World News:
CHARLES GIBSON: Good evening. From the time the President took the oath of office, Karl Rove has been the most powerful unelected man in Washington. Close advisor to George Bush for more than 30 years, Rove announced today he's resigning, effective at the end of this month. Any picture you may see of George Bush, chances are very good Karl Rove is right there. He has been a lightning rod credited with many of the President's successes, blamed by critics for many White House mis-steps. We start tonight with ABC's David Wright at the White House. David?

DAVID WRIGHT: Good evening, Charlie. This is very much the end of an era for the Bush White House. Karl Rove has been sort of the political operating system here -- the architect of victories, the spinner of defeats. Today the President called him a "dear friend."

GEORGE W. BUSH: Karl Rove is movin' on down the road.

WRIGHT: And, clearly, it was tough to say goodbye.

KARL ROVE: Today I submitted my resignation.

WRIGHT. Rove choked up as he announced his departure.

ROVE: At month's end, I will join those whom you meet in your travels, the ordinary Americans who tell you they're praying for you.

WRIGHT: Their partnership goes back more than 30 years. Rove started out as a young aide to the President's father. He and the son lost their first campaign together, a run for Congress in 1978. But Rove more than made up for that later.

WAYNE SLATER, DALLAS MORNING NEWS: Without Karl Rove, there never would have been a George Bush as governor. Without Karl Rove, there never would have been George Bush as President.

WRIGHT: His signature move, what some have called "political ju-jitzu": turning opponents' strengths against them. In 2000, many saw his fingerprints in the attack on John McCain's character. 2004 witnessed a similar sustained attack on John Kerry's war record.

LIEUTENANT COMMANDER GEORGE ELLIOTT, VIETNAM WAR, IN SWIFT BOAT VETERANS FOR TRUTH AD: John Kerry has not been honest.

WRIGHT: An audacious move considering Bush's Vietnam War record was weak. Not only did Bush win that year, his party gained seats in Congress. The President singled Rove out for special thanks.

BUSH: The architect, Karl Rove.

WRIGHT: But in an interview that year with Peter Jennings, Rove feigned modesty.

PETER JENNINGS: Give our viewers an accurate impression of how much power you have.

WRIGHT: After 9/11, he helped the President press his political advantage, sometimes going too far. He accused the Democrats of offering therapy and understanding to our attackers. 9/11 families asked him to stop. His winning streak ended in 2006 when the Democrats took back the Congress. By that point, not even Karl Rove could spin the Iraq war as a success. Since then, he's been on the defensive over the leaking of a CIA agent's name as political payback against her husband, and for his part in the fired U.S. attorneys scandal, in which he has rejected Congress' right to subpoena him. Now, Rove told reporters today that he's not leaving because of the scandals. And he says he'll keep his executive privilege even after he goes. He says he's been thinking of leaving for more than a year now there are simply no more big election fights to fight. And, Charlie, the fact that he's going underscores the fact that George Bush is now very much a lame duck.
...

GIBSON, with matching text on screen: Well, Senator Charles Schumer said Rove will still have to answer questions about the firings of those U.S. attorneys. He "has every bit as much of a legal obligation to reveal the truth once he steps down as he does today," said Senator Schumer. And Senator John Kerry, who lost his bid for the White House in that campaign run by Rove that David mentioned, said he orchestrated a political strategy "that promised to unite Americans but instead left us more divided than [ever] before."
CBS Evening News:
JIM AXELROD: ....Rove survived five grand jury appearances during the Valerie Plame CIA leak case without being indicted. He's currently defying congressional subpoenas to testify about the fired U.S. attorneys.

KARL ROVE, dated 1972: You can't get a 35-year-old to teach the Republican party how to get to young people.

AXELROD: The Bush aide Democrats most love to hate, he's been at this since the early 70s. That's him working for Nixon in 1972. A quarter century later, Karl Rove aimed to create a permanent Republican majority. He lost some of his luster last year when painting the Democrats weak on terror and the Iraq war backfired, and the GOP lost the House and Senate.

ROVE, IN 2005: Liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding to our attackers.

AXELROD: Even Mr. Bush gave him grief.

GEORGE W. BUSH: I obviously was working harder in the campaign than he was.

AXELROD: Karl Rove is packing his bags and heading out and his departure marks a new, less ambitious Bush presidency.

JIM VANDEHEI, POLITICO.COM: They're not going to be doing anything big anymore. These ideas of trying to reform Social Security or initiate a big overhaul of the immigration laws, not gonna happen.

AXELROD: Rove's not so popular with his own party these days. One high-ranking Republican told me he's leaving the party quote, 'in tatters.' Jim Axelrod, CBS News, the White House.
NBC Nightly News:
KELLY O'DONNELL: ....Not shy about mugging for cameras, Rove has also been a consistent magnet for controversy. He enraged Democrats, accusing them of weakness after 9/11, saying liberals wanted to:

ROVE, JUNE 22, 2005: Offer therapy and understanding to our attackers.

O'DONNELL: In the CIA leak case, Rove was found to be a source in outing a CIA officer, but was not charged. And now under subpoena, Congress wants Rove to testify about the firing of U.S. Attorneys....
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center