Matthews to NewsBusters: Plame Story Too Complicated to Cover Now
[After being called out by NewsBusters, Matthews ended his boycott late Friday. Be sure and read updates to this post below.]
Since the revelation that Richard Armitage, a former high-ranking official in the State Department, was the source of the much-ballyhooed Valerie Plame "leak," many in the media have refused to touch the story with a ten-foot pole. This was quite a turnaround since before the Armitage involvement was known, many journalists believed the CIA leak story was one worth pursuing on a daily basis. Some even believed it could bring down the Bush White House, or at least end the careers of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney.One of the biggest media figures boycotting the Plame story has been MSNBC host Chris Matthews, who has yet to mention the scandal at all since the Armitage report broke, a dramatic contrast to the 27 times he mentioned the "scandal" in the five months leading up to it.
Like P.J. Gladnick, I couldn't help but notice Matthews's strange flip. So I decided to ask him about it. His answer revealed an animus toward Vice President Dick Cheney and a fear of being asked to answer tough questions himself.
Last night, I went to a press conference/party held by MSNBC and National Journal celebrating a new venture the two media outlets are launching together. Quite a few NBCers were there, including Chris Matthews. I struck up a conversation with the host about the topic of Plame and why he hadn't talked about the story at all. Here's a rough transcript of our discussion which I wrote down shortly thereafter:
Q: So I've noticed you haven't done anything on the whole Valerie Plame story since the Armitage story broke. Why not invite Joe Wilson on the show to defend himself?
A: Because he'd say basically the same thing he always says. 'My wife had no involvement in getting me the mission.' He'd just repeat it over and over.
Q: Maybe, but isn't it at least worth showing your viewers that this guy has no credibility considering how much you talked about the story before? Shouldn't he be held accountable for wasting all our time? Why not invite one of his representatives or defenders on the show?
A: Well, the story's just gotten so complicated. I mean, it's just such a mess. Because what if it's true that Armitage was the source, but those other guys [presumably Rove and Scooter Libby], also were leakers, what then?
Q: Isn't that a question worth exploring on your show?
A: It could be but the problem is that Dick Cheney has so many apologists it's ridiculous. So many journalists like Bob Woodward will say or do anything just to get access to him. And then all the people in the administration too.
Q: I don't see why this is stopping you from mentioning the story at all. The viewers at least need some sort of closure don't they?
A: Hey listen I need to get out of here. I have to get back home.
After that remark, Matthews left the conversation. He stuck around for about 15 minutes before leaving.
Update 13:40. Matt Drudge has picked up this story.
Update 16:29. Nathan Goulding: "Now that there isn't a story, Matthews drops it — not because it's a non-story, but because it's too confusing. In reality, it couldn't be any simpler. Richard Armitage told Robert Novak. Rove confirmed this to Novak. There was no conspiracy to 'punish' a Bush critic — only an effort to refute his lies. What's so 'complicated' about that?"
Update 16:46. Ace: "Bush Derangement Syndrome. Catch the swamp-fever!"
Update 18:10. Tom Maguire has a post on some of the other Matthews aspects in the Plame story, including an accusation from former Cheney aide Scooter Libby that the MSNBC host is anti-semitic.
Update 23:12. On Friday's edition of "Hardball," Matthews, prompted by this post being picked up by the Drudge Report, ended his boycott of the Plame story with a strange conspiracy theory: Armitage was set up to be a patsy by Bush White House staff because they "knew he was a blabbermouth."
Matthews posed his bizarre idea to Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff and Nation writer David Corn. Isikoff flatly denied it.
MATTHEWS: You guys broke the story that the real leaker in the CIA leak case was Richard Armitage. Michael?
ISIKOFF: Correct, and it's, you know, it was one of the ironies of the Plame investigation that the guy who was the primary source for Novak, who was the primary source, and it was the sole source for Bob Woodward, was a member of the administration's moderate cell who actually had misgivings about march to war--
MATTHEWS: Do you think he might have been used by the people like Scooter, they put it in front of him knowing he was a blabbermouth?
Video available at NRO.