GMA’s Sawyer Spins Scooter Libby as ‘Scapegoat’ and ‘Fall Guy’ for Cheney

On Wednesday’s "Good Morning America," anchor Diane Sawyer framed of the conviction of Lewis "Scooter" Libby through the perspective of anti-Bush liberals, continuing a tradition that began with the previous day’s evening news programs. An ABC graphic described Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Cheney, as the "fall guy" and Sawyer wondered if he was "a scapegoat."

And nowhere in the segment did the GMA co-host find time to mention some very pertinent points, such as the fact that CIA Agent Valerie Plame, wife of ex-Ambassador Joe Wilson, had her identity revealed to reporter Bob Novak by an administration critic, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. Sawyer interviewed Denis Collins, a juror from the trial, and a sampling of her questions seems to reveal who she thinks is responsible:

Diane Sawyer: "Do you think that Scooter Libby got in trouble because he was trimming the truth to protect his boss?"

Sawyer: "You said the Vice President had clearly tasked [Libby] to talk to reporters about CIA agent Valerie Plame. How do you think the Vice President should feel this morning?"

Sawyer: "At the end of the day, what's the big message sent by this jury and this verdict?"

The ABC anchor also failed to mentioned the apparent conflict of interests shared by juror Collins, including his friendships with reporter Bob Woodward and the fact that he was a former neighbor of Tim Russert.

Sawyer began the segment, which aired at the top of the 7am hour on March 7, with a tease that signaled the interview’s tone. She then quickly shifted the focus to Vice President Cheney:

7am tease

Diane Sawyer: "And, the verdict. A top aide to the Vice President convicted of lying and obstructing justice in the CIA leak case. But was Scooter Libby a scapegoat? We talk to the juror who called him ‘the fall guy.’"

ABC Graphic: "The Fall Guy?"

7:04

ABC Graphic: "Juror: Libby Did Not Act Alone: ‘He Was Fall Guy’"

Diane Sawyer: "Well you heard this extraordinary statement, the sympathy expressed in that press conference about Scooter Libby. Four men, seven women, had to wade through an ocean of evidence before reaching a guilty verdict in the trial of Scooter Libby. And just minutes ago I spoke to juror Denis Collins, the man you saw there, to learn more about their decision in this historic case. Mr. Collins, so grateful your with us this morning. It was an extraordinary thing you said yesterday, to express sympathy for someone you had convicted on these counts. Do you think that Scooter Libby got in trouble because he was trimming the truth to protect his boss?"

Denis Collins: "Well, of course we were not asked to look into that, but of course you can't help but touch on all these different, you know, areas. Um, you know, somebody on the jury said a couple of days ago, said he was taking it for the team, and there was no, no real response to that. But, I think that, that is definitely a feeling. He, he was asked to go and interview reporters, to get the word out about that the Vice President's office was not the one that sent Joe Wilson, former ambassador Wilson to Niger. And, uh, you know, I think the defense said he was, in effect, putting his neck into the meat grinder."

Sawyer: "You said the Vice President had clearly tasked him to talk to reporters about CIA agent Valerie Plame. How do you think the Vice President should feel this morning?"

Collins: "Well, I'm sure he's not happy. I, I know that from all we, we saw and heard, Mr. Libby was very dedicated to the Vice President. Someone told us that he spent more time with the Vice President than he did his wife and family. So, I'm sure it's, it’s not very pleasant for him either."

Sawyer: "Let me tackle the question from a different angle. $1.4 million spent two years for this investigation, and yet the question at the center of it, did the White House blow the cover of a CIA agent, a covert CIA agent, by talking to journalists about her. That question was never addressed. It was instead a question about truth telling and some people have said truth telling on the margins here. Do you feel that the real issue was tackled?"

Collins: "I can only say that three or four times during this, you know, this trial, someone in the jury would say, 'What are we doing here? Why are we dealing with Libby Where are these other guys?' And we had heard testimony that it was Armitage and, you know, Karl Rove who made the initial leak, to, well, one, to, to Bob Woodward at ‘The Washington Post' and so, there, seemed to be a frustration that we were trying someone for telling a lie apparently about an event that never became important enough to file charges anywhere else."

Notice that it’s the juror, Collins, who made the only mention of Armitage. Also, Sawyer described Valerie Plame as a "covert CIA agent," never giving a hint that there is any controversy over whether or not Plame was, in fact, undercover. The GMA co-host closed the interview by asking what the "big message" of the conviction is:

Sawyer: "You have talked about the hard work of this jury, and, the amount of hours you spent carefully pouring over the evidence. Everyone really trying to do the right thing. At the end of the day, what's the big message sent by this jury and this verdict?"

Collins: Well, I would hope that the message sent by this jury shouldn't be that big a message. I mean, we did– We had a giant job to do. But I'm not sure if this case was less celebrated. The people on this jury, and I give all the credit to the other jurors, there were people on this jury who really took this task as seriously as anything they'd ever done in their lives, and meticulously took apart every bit of testimony. Put it on 35, 36 giant sheets of paper, all over this jury walls, set up, you know believability charts, motivation, evidence in favor of X, evidence against Y. And, and, we never sped up the process. It never once was where somebody said, ‘look, I've got things to do. I've got a life out there. Let's get this done quickly. So I would hope that the message is, ‘Hey this is what a jury does.’ You may not want to be on a jury, but when you get there, do the job."

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center and a contributing editor for NewsBusters.org