NPR Legal Reporter Lamely Tries to Spread Bush Into the AP Phone-tapping Scandal

NPR legal correspondent Carrie Johnson reported on the IRS scandal on Tuesday’s Morning Edition displaying an urgent need to spread some Bush administration into the story. First she mentioned a 2004 FBI probe that improperly acquired phone records from New York Times and Washington Post reporters without going through proper channels.

Then she concluded with how the last secret subpoena for a reporter’s phone records came in 2001. But it involved Clinton-appointed U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White – who just became Obama’s appointee to head the Securities and Exchange Commission:

CARRIE JOHNSON: The last time phone records for a reporter were the focus of a secret subpoena was back in 2001, in a case that involved a different AP reporter. Back then, former Justice Department prosecutor Victoria Toensing said this on the "PBS NewsHour."

VICTORIA TOENSING: You shouldn't get a story that violates the law, and if you do, then the government should take all steps to see that that doesn't happen again, so people have confidence in their judicial system.

CARRIE JOHNSON: This Justice Department will have a chance to explain itself later this week, when Attorney General Eric Holder testifies on Capitol Hill. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

A listener might assume this is a terrorism case after 9-11. Nope. The PBS show aired on August 30, 2001. The investigation included a phone call from Democratic Sen. Robert Torricelli of New Jersey, and the AP reporter monitored was John Solomon (who later edited The Washington Times.) Here’s more of the Toensing interview on PBS, alongside AP executive Louis Boccardi:

TOENSING: All we know is that the U.S. Attorney from the southern district of New York -- who was a Clinton appointee, so this is not a new Republican administration person -- made the request....

LOUIS BOCCARDI, AP: Mary Jo White, yes, she was a Clinton appointee, but she's been held over by a Republican administration, and the final permission for this intrusion into the journalistic process came from an appointee of this administration, who was then the deputy... Acting, I guess, deputy attorney general, and is now the head of the FBI so...

VICTORIA TOENSING: Don't make this Democrat-Republican.

LOUIS BOCCARDI: No, you introduced it, I didn't.

VICTORIA TOENSING: No, it isn't, I'm saying it's bipartisan. I mean, there's nothing here that's Republican or Democrat. It just isn't.

NPR certainly would like to make this AP scandal sound more bipartisan.

It's a little amusing for Boccardi to imply that since White was retained by the Bush administration, she was now like a Republican appointee. But when the Bush people fired seven or eight U.S. Attorneys in the second term, they were all assumed to independent agents fired by a partisan administration.

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