CBS's Plante Fires Back: 'Cheney Wouldn't Tell Us if Our Shirts Were on Fire'

Imagine you're a member of the media, and in your heart you believe that a major official wouldn't mind seeing you burn to death. Think that might affect the way you cover him?

A comment on this morning's "Early Show" by veteran CBS reporter Bill Plante, while perhaps intended to be light-hearted, pulled back the curtain on just how antagonistic the White House press corps believes VP Cheney to be toward them. But more importantly, it suggests how antagonistic they likely feel in return.

The topic was the Veep's accidental shooting of hunting partner Harry Whittington, and more particularly the very contentious press conference yesterday between the White House press corps and presidential spokesman Scott McClellan. Windows Media or Real Player

Plante claimed that:

"It's not about us, it's not about the reporters." Sure.

"It's about the fact that the White House is expected to disclose any information about what happens to the President, the Vice President, the administration, the national security as soon as they can.

Plante later added: In any other White House that I've covered, and that's several as you know, the Vice President would never have this kind of power [to control the flow of information]."

Plante then added his zinger:

"But if it were up to Dick Cheney, he wouldn't tell us if our shirts were on fire, for heaven's sake."

Plante ostensibly offered his comment as a metaphor for how closely the VP likes to guard information. But back in New York, Harry Smith broke into nervous laughter, perhaps aware that Plante had at the same time let the cat out of the bag on just how much the White House press corps disdains the Vice President of the United States.

Finkelstein lives in Ithaca, NY where he hosts the local TV program "Right Angle." Email him at: mark@gunhill.net

Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.