Pulitzer Prizes Award Journalists Who Undermined Anti-Terrorism Programs

The annual Pulitzer Prize awards announced Monday night, by Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism, rewarded Washington Post and New York Times reporters who exposed -- and thus undermined -- secret anti-terrorism efforts, as well as a Washington Post critic who mocked Vice President Cheney's outdoor apparel and ridiculed the supposed 1950s-era clothing worn by then-Supreme Court nominee John Roberts' kids. The Pulitzer board gave the “Beat Reporting” award to Dana Priest of the Washington Post “for her persistent, painstaking reports on secret 'black site' prisons and other controversial features of the government’s counterterrorism campaign.” The “National Reporting” award was won by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times “for their carefully sourced stories on secret domestic eavesdropping that stirred a national debate on the boundary line between fighting terrorism and protecting civil liberty.” The duo infamously penned the damaging December 16 article, “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts.”

Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan grabbed the “Criticism” award “for her witty, closely observed essays that transform fashion criticism into cultural criticism.” In a January 2005 piece featured by the Post in a new page created to showcase her Pulitzer-winning work, Givhan complained that at a gathering of world leaders to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, Dick Cheney “was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower.”

The Pulitzer Prizes page listing the winners.

For the list of the members of the 2006 Pulitzer Prize board, which is dominated by liberals, including Columbia University President Lee Bollinger, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the W.E.B. DuBois Professor of Humanities at Harvard University and Nicholas Lemann, Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.

The Pulitzer is the second major journalism award to honor Dana Priest's exposure of CIA prison sites for terrorists. A February 21 NewsBusters item on the George Polk Awards relayed how the “National Reporting” nod was earned by “Dana Priest of the Washington Post for unveiling the existence of secret CIA-run prisons and wrongdoing that included the death of an Afghan detainee and the attempted cover up of the mistaken imprisonment of a German citizen. Priest detailed the elaborate covert operations in a series of 10 articles that unleashed an international furor and raised troubling questions at home about the government's counter-terrorism campaign.”

The Washington Post has created a page to showcase Priest's 2005 national security articles.

The January 31, 2005 MRC CyberAlert recounted Givhan's notorious hit piece on Cheney:
The Washington Post on Friday plastered, across the entire width of the top of the front page of the "Style" section, an opinionated critique of Vice President Dick Cheney's attire. "Dick Cheney, Dressing Down: Parka, Ski Cap at Odds With Solemnity of Auschwitz Ceremony," read the headline over the article by Robin Givhan who complained that at the Thursday ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the death camp, Cheney "was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower." She explained his transgression: "Cheney stood out in a sea of black-coated world leaders because he was wearing an olive drab parka with a fur-trimmed hood." The AP and Reuters soon picked up the story as well as CNN's Inside Politics, PBS's Washington Week and MSNBC Countdown on which Alison Stewart hyped it as "the fashion faux pas that's becoming an international incident."

The Post's media reporter Howard Kurtz, however, as noted in a CyberAlert item the next day, chided Givhan and the media hype for her attack
Noting how "it was all over cable the day the article appeared," Washington Post media reporter Howard Kurtz, in a Monday chat session, contended that "Parkagate," a story line launched by an attack on Cheney's wardrobe by the Post, "was a bit overplayed." In a piece showcased across the top of Friday's "Style" section, Robin Givhan complained that at the Thursday ceremony to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp, Cheney, who sported a dark green parka, "was dressed in the kind of attire one typically wears to operate a snow blower." Kurtz pointed out that Cheney is "a heart patient and it was freezing cold there" and suggested that "there are better things to criticize Cheney about."

An April 14, 2005 MRC Media Reality Check, “Washington Post's Robin Givhan and Her Hair-Raising Fashion Bias: Bolton, Bush, and Cheney Hair Mocked, but Kerry Should 'Gloat,' and Edwards Should be 'Tousled' and 'Nuzzled,'” reported:
Washington media types love gossip about style, and one increasingly influential source of style buzz is Washington Post fashion writer Robin Givhan, who today attacked UN Ambassador designate John Bolton: "His attire was not merely bland but careless. His hair was so poorly cut, it bordered on rude." She wisecracked that Bolton's locks looked like he had "shaken his hair dry in the manner of an Afghan hound." His mustache looked "like it should be attached to geek glasses and a rubber nose."

Despite her February raves for Condoleezza Rice's high black boots, Givhan usually starts news buzz for lashing out at GOP fashion flaws. In 2000, she blasted Florida's Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who "can't even use restraint when she's wielding a mascara wand." In January, she lashed out at Vice President Cheney for wearing a parka ("snow blower" attire) to an Auschwitz ceremony. But go back to a July 9, 2004 Post article on candidate hair, and you start wondering how much her critiques are tilted by her politics.

# George W. Bush "has enough hair to fully cover his head, but it is a dull gray thatch that is unremarkable and never seems to glisten even when he is standing in direct sunlight."

# Dick Cheney "has thinning white hair, and the few strands that are there are so lacking in body and bounce that in the presidential hair wars, they don't even register as wisps."

# John Kerry's "hair may have turned silver, but he has arrived at age 60 seemingly without having lost a strand. What man wouldn't gloat, just a little?"

# John Edwards makes Givhan's heart pitter-patter, writing in one ardent passage that his "hair has regularly been referred to as a mop, but that suggests that it is messy or unkempt. Nothing could be further from the truth. He has a precise haircut with artfully clipped layers. His hair is a beautiful shade of chocolate brown with honey-colored highlights. It is not particularly long, but it is smooth and shiny. It is boyish hair not because of the style but because it looks so healthy and buoyant and practically cries out to be tousled the same way a well-groomed golden retriever demands to be nuzzled.
Givhan began a July 2005 harangue, on the attire of the Roberts family when President Bush nominated John Roberts for the Supreme Court:
It has been a long time since so much syrupy nostalgia has been in evidence at the White House. But Tuesday night, when President Bush announced his choice for the next associate justice of the Supreme Court, it was hard not to marvel at the 1950s-style tableau vivant that was John Roberts and his family.

There they were -- John, Jane, Josie and Jack -- standing with the president and before the entire country. The nominee was in a sober suit with the expected white shirt and red tie. His wife and children stood before the cameras, groomed and glossy in pastel hues -- like a trio of Easter eggs, a handful of Jelly Bellies, three little Necco wafers. There was tow-headed Jack -- having freed himself from the controlling grip of his mother -- enjoying a moment in the spotlight dressed in a seersucker suit with short pants and saddle shoes. His sister, Josie, was half-hidden behind her mother's skirt. Her blond pageboy glistened. And she was wearing a yellow dress with a crisp white collar, lace-trimmed anklets and black patent-leather Mary Janes...
Back in 2000, as recited by the MRC's CyberAlert, then-Washington Post Ombudsman Michael Getler denounced Givhan for issuing a personal attack on then-Floriday Secretary of State Katherine Harris. Givhan had denigrated Harris: "One wonders how this Republican woman, who can't even use restraint when she's wielding a mascara wand, will manage to use it and make sound decisions in this game of partisan one-upmanship."
Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center