Lester's Leading Libby Questions; Vieira Rides to Wilson's Defense
Writing about Lester Holt, I've more than once praised the NBC host for his level-headed professionalism. I may have to re-evaluate after his performance on this morning's "Today." Interviewing Joe Wilson about the Libby commutation, Holt seemed to seek to throw gasoline on the fire with leading questions, while obfuscating an important fact. Later, Meredith Vieira interrupted Bill Kristol to offer a heartelt defense of Wilson.
Holt began by reminding Wilson of his recent statement that the Libby sentence demonstrates that "this remains a nation of laws, not men."
Holt then lobbed in this question.
NBC HOST LESTER HOLT: Do you still believe that this morning?
Wilson knew just what to do with the hanging curveball:
JOE WILSON: I believe the President has utterly subverted the rule of law and the system of justice that has undergirded this country of ours for the last 220 years. I couldn't give a rat's patootie about the fate of Scooter Libby [yeah, right], other than he was convicted of a jury of his peers; that sentence was reaffirmed by a court of appeals yesterday. What I care about is the President of the United States is short-circuiting our system of justice, and for what reason.
Later, Holt obfuscated the facts surrounding the case.
HOLT: This case began as a hunt for whoever violated national security laws by leaking your wife's name, yet no one was ever charged with that crime. As you know, Scooter Libby was charged and convicted of perjurty. Is your anger over the sentence being commuted, or as you say, an obstruction of justice in the case, or the fact that the prosecutor never really got to the root of this case?
The prosecutor never got to the root of the case? Sure he did. He knew all along that the leaker wasn't Libby, but Richard Armitage over at the State Department.
View video here.
It got worse.
WILSON: The prosecutor made it very clear at the time of the indictment, and you might want to go back and report on that [could Wilson possibly be more pedantic and condescending?], that justice would be served whatever the crime under which Mr. Libby was convicted. There are lots of reasons for his not having being charged with the underlying crime, including the aggressive efforts on the part of his defense team to do what they call "greymail," in other words, insist that the government decide how much classified information it wanted to release relative to the importance of the prosecution. So there're lots of reasons. Al Capone was convicted of tax evasion, but that doesn't mean he was a mobster.
I anticipated Holt's retort. Surely he was going to remind Wilson that the fundamental reason that Libby wasn't charged with leaking was that he was not the leaker. But no, Holt let Wilson go with a "thanks so much."
That's not the kind of journalism I'd come to expect from Holt. Lester, what happened?
BONUS COVERAGE -- Meredith Rides to Wilson's Defense
In the succeeding segment, Meredith Vieira stuck up for good ol' Joe. Interviewing Bill Kristol of the Weekly Standard, Vieira asked whether in not pardoning Libby but only commuting his prison sentence, Pres. Bush had not done enough to satisfy his conservative base. Kristol, who would have wanted a full pardon, nevertheless expressed satisfaction with the commutation, pointing to the fevered reaction to the commutation.
WEEKLY STANDARD'S BILL KRISTOL: Scooter Libby deserved better, but President Bush did the right thing. In politics sometimes you have to take good, and not great, and this was a good decision by the president, a courageous decision. Look at all the screaming and yelling, look at Joe Wilson's ridiculous comments just now, look at Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, look at the New York Times, the Washington Post, the president showed . . .
A clearly incensed Vieira interrupted.
TODAY CO-HOST MEREDITH VIEIRA: Why do you say ridiculous, sir? There are many people who feel that this was a travesty of justice. So those who believe that are ridiculous?
An unperturbed Kristol countered.
KRISTOL: Yeah, I think if they look at the facts, the notion that Scooter Libby should spend 30 months in jail for having a difference in recollection about a conversation with Tim Russert, which is the only thing he was indicted or convicted of is, I do think, ridiculous.
View video here.
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