Lewis 'Scooter' Libby's sentencing occurred on Tuesday and Katie Couric led the CBS Evening News the same way she did when Libby was convicted three months ago: With a comparison to the Iran-Contra scandal and how he's the highest-ranking official convicted of a felony in 20 years. But his conviction was news three months ago, not now. Back on March 6, Couric teased: “Guilty: Scooter Libby is convicted in the CIA leak case, the highest ranking White House official found guilty of a felony since the Iran-Contra scandal.” She opened by pointing out how “Libby is the highest ranking White House official convicted of a felony in two decades.”
Fast forward to June 5 and Couric teased: “Tonight, the hammer comes down on Scooter Libby. He was once Vice President Cheney's right-hand man, now he's going to prison. The highest-ranking White House official in nearly twenty years convicted of a felony.” She began the newscast:
“Hello everyone. Not since the Iran-Contra scandal nearly two decades ago has such a high-ranking White House official been convicted of a felony. And today, Lewis 'Scooter' Libby was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in connection with that very convoluted CIA leak case. Libby was not convicted of leaking the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame, but rather of lying about what he knew.”
As occurred back on March 6, neither CBS or ABC uttered the name of the leaker: Richard Armitage. (For more about coverage the night of Libby's conviction, check my March 6 NewsBusters item, “Nets Frame Libby Verdict Around Vile Scheming, Never Mention Armitage, Tie in Reagan.”)
But unlike back in March, the Tuesday NBC Nightly News story by Bob Faw did include a soundbite, from former Bush speechwriter David Frum, naming Armitage: “The actual person who did it, Richard Armitage, he faces no penalty whatsoever. I think a lot of people who are aware of Scooter's huge contributions to public service say that seems a little unfair.”
CBS and NBC led Tuesday night with the Libby conviction while ABC (with Charles Gibson back as anchor after George Stephanopoulos anchored Monday night) began with “the harsh cold war language exchanged between the U.S. and Russia gets tougher as President Bush accuses Russia's President of dismantling democracy” followed by a look at the missile defense system proposed for Poland and a brief item on how Fidel Castro appeared in a television interview. Then Gibson got to Libby. Instead of a taped piece, Gibson discussed the decision with George Stephanopoulos.
After the NBC Nightly News report from Bob Faw, Brian Williams brought aboard David Gergen to talk about the possibility of a presidential pardon. Gergen noted: “This is a very tough sentence. This is a Watergate-type sentence. Bob Haldeman, who was Richard Nixon's chief of staff, went to jail for 18 months, not 30.”