Time Rejected Hiring Karl Rove, Saw Him as Unindicted Felon

Radar Online reported Tuesday that before being signed as a contributor by Newsweek magazine, Rove was first shopped to Time, but that didn’t happen because "They think Karl is essentially an unindicted coconspirator in a whole string of felonies."

Wow, what a liberal smell Time puts out. For older media-watchers, this recalls the Washington bureau of Time sitting around on C-SPAN on the verge of the first Iraq war in 1991 dismissing John McCain and his "superpatriots" who marched around in "brown shirts." Radar media critic Charles Kaiser reported:

For its part, Time magazine said nothing publicly about Rove's arrival at Newsweek, but a well-placed source told me that Bob Barnett (every Washington literati's favorite lawyer, including Bill Clinton) had traveled to the Time-Life building on Sixth Avenue to offer Rove's services before Newsweek snared them. Time's editors apparently felt the cost/benefit analysis wouldn't be in their favor if they embraced the man who has done more than anyone to keep the spirit of Joe McCarthy alive and well in American politics. (Read Joshua Green's definitive profile from the Atlantic in 2004.) "Time thought this wouldn't be like hiring George Stephanopoulos," my source explained. "They think Karl is essentially like an unindicted coconspirator in a whole string of felonies."

Besides the obvious shock value, there was another reason Rove's arrival in the fourth estate was inevitable. In public, Rove is one of dozens of conservatives who assiduously bash the press. Last summer, channeling Agnew, Rove told Rush Limbaugh that "the people I see criticizing [Bush] are sort of elite effete snobs." But at the same time, Rove was constantly massaging big-time Washington journalists over long lunches at the Hay Adams Hotel.

The result of this continuous media handling was a mostly kid-glove treatment of Rove by great Washington political reporters like Anne Kornblut. The day after Rove dodged an indictment by the special prosecutor, this is how Kornblut appraised him in the New York Times: "a cheerful, sharp-witted operative fond of sparring with reporters off the record." It's that kind of hard-hitting approach that got Kornblut stolen away by the Washington Post—but also makes it possible for Jon Stewart to provide an essential reality check on our nation's capital.

Kaiser’s also a fan of Stephen Colbert, since he’s plugged his book The Gay Metropolis on it.

Sometimes, it’s fun to see the broader context of a quote like Kornblut’s on Rove. Here it is, via Nexis, from October 29, 2005:

Mr. Rove, a cheerful, sharp-witted operative fond of sparring with reporters off the record, was drawn into the case because of conversations he had had with two reporters about the wife of former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, who had attacked the administration's account of intelligence to justify war in Iraq.

On July 9, 2003, Mr. Rove confirmed to the columnist Robert D. Novak that he had heard that Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie, was a C.I.A. officer; Mr. Novak revealed her identity in his column several days later. Referring to an ''Official A,'' whom people briefed on the case have identified as Mr. Rove, the indictment recounted those events, as well as a conversation that Official A had with Mr. Libby about the subject. Mr. Rove also tipped off Matthew Cooper of Time magazine to Ms. Wilson's identity in a phone conversation on July 11, two days after he spoke to Mr. Novak.

The circumstances surrounding those conversations have fueled outrage from Mr. Rove's political adversaries, who have long viewed him as a take-no-prisoners renegade who will stop at nothing to ruin his critics. Mr. Wilson has called Mr. Rove's actions an ''outrageous abuse of power'' that was ''certainly worthy of frog-marching out of the White House.''

In other words, Kornblut’s report was balanced enough to note Rove haters who think he’s the "renegade who stops at nothing" to ruin people. It’s nice Kornblut made room in her story for the movers and shakers at Time magazine.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis