In Pursuit of Conspiracy Theory, Bill Press Lies About Novak Column

Bill Press, the former CNN and MSNBC host refuses
to yield ground on the Plame story. Starting to sound a lot like a crazy guy shouting about aliens, Press creates a unified
conspiracy theory of Plame. That's a little difficult given recent news
events, so Press has to resort to distorting the words of columnist
Robert Novak:

So where's my apology to Karl Rove?

That's
what many readers want to know: Having accused Karl Rove of leading a
conspiracy within the Bush White House to reveal the identity of
undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame, don't I owe Rove an apology now
that former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage has admitted
that he, not Rove, was Novak's primary source?

Well,
here's my answer: Hell, no! Armitage's involvement doesn't disprove the
Rove conspiracy. It only proves it was a lot wider than we originally
thought. [...]

In their new book, “Hubris,” Michael Isikoff and David Corn
reveal that Novak and Woodward both learned of Valerie Plame from the
same man, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. At least
in Novak's case, Armitage told CBS News, he let Plame's identity slip
“inadvertently.” He insists he was later mortified to see her name in
print and realize he might have been Novak's source. Inadvertently, of
course.

Hogwash.
Novak is too good a reporter to let that stand. In a blistering column,
written after Armitage's less-than-sincere mea culpa on CBS, Novak
writes that Plame's ID didn't just slip out of Armitage's lips in idle
chit-chat. Armitage not only identified Plame as a CIA agent, he told
Novak what department she worked for. He blamed Plame for volunteering
her husband for the fact-finding mission to Niger. And he suggested
this was excellent fodder for a future Novak column.

Now,
add it all up. Dick Cheney sics his staff on Wilson and Plame. And
within a few days: Scooter Libby talks to Judy Miller, Karl Rove talks
to Bob Novak and Matt Cooper, Dick Armitage talks to Bob Novak and Bob
Woodward. And you expect me to believe that's all just one big
coincidence? They all just happened to come upon the same evidence at
the same time and decided to leak it to the media?

Sorry.
My gullibility can't stretch that far. There were too many people
involved — all out to get Valerie Plame because her husband dared
undermine one of the president's key, but phony, arguments for going to
war in Iraq. No doubt about it. There was a deliberate, widespread
conspiracy within the Bush Administration — all the way from the White
House to the State Department — to retaliate against Joe Wilson by
destroying his wife's career at the CIA. And there's only one person in
the White House devious and powerful enough to organize such a campaign.

That's why Karl Rove will never get an apology from me.

It's funny that on the very day news breaks about the liberal media deliberately shortening a quote
from attorney general Alberto Gonzales to make the Bush admin look bad,
Bill Press turns around and does basically the same thing. Novak did
say the things Press imputes to him, but he said more than that as
well. Here's the relevant paragraphs of the column Press mentions but noticably does not link on his web site. I've bolded the part Press conveniently left out:

When Richard Armitage
finally acknowledged last week he was my source three years ago in
revealing Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA employee, the former deputy
secretary of state's interviews obscured what he really did. I want to
set the record straight based on firsthand knowledge.

First, Armitage did
not, as he now indicates, merely pass on something he had heard and
that he ''thought'' might be so. Rather, he identified to me the CIA
division where Mrs. Wilson worked, and said flatly that she recommended
the mission to Niger by her husband, former Ambasador [sic] Joseph Wilson.

Second, Armitage did
not slip me this information as idle chitchat, as he now suggests. He
made clear he considered it especially suited for my column.

An accurate depiction
of what Armitage actually said deepens the irony of him being my
source. He was a foremost internal skeptic of the administration's war
policy, and I long had opposed military intervention in Iraq. Zealous
foes of George W. Bush transformed me improbably into the president's
lapdog. But they cannot fit Armitage into the left-wing fantasy of a
well-crafted White House conspiracy to destroy Joe and Valerie Wilson.
The news that he and not Karl Rove was the leaker was devastating news
for the left.

According to Novak, the fact that Armitage told him about Valerie
Plame Wilson ought to dispel any notion that the Bush administration
was out to get Joe Wilson by telling everyone about his secret agent
wife. Basically, the exact opposite of what Press wants his readers to
believe.

Novak is not retracing his steps either. In a July interview
on NBC's "Meet the Press," Novak stated that he learned of Plame's name
from "Who's Who in America," and that he heard nothing in 2003 that she
was a "covered" employee. He also reiterated his earlier remark that Plame was not an agent and that he regretted calling her an "operative."

TIM RUSSERT: When you were on MEET THE PRESS October
of ‘03, I asked you about the Newsday piece, and you did repeat, you
said, quote, “What I meant was that the senior official had given me
her name.”


ROBERT NOVAK: Well, that, that was just—that's just a
misstatement on my part. He, he—what he said exactly was his wife, his
wife had done it. I got the name—because I, I, I realized I didn't have
the name, and I figured out, how am I going to get this name to put in,
in the column? So I said, “Maybe it's in ‘Who's Who.'” And I looked it
up and there it was.


RUSSERT: In fact, you wrote, “I learned Valerie
Plame's name from Joe Wilson's entry in “Who's Who” in America. And
here is the “Who's Who” from 2003, Wilson, Joseph Charles IV,
ambassador, married to Valerie Elise Plame August 3, 1998.” Was that
the very first time you had seen or heard the name Valerie Plame?


NOVAK: Yes.


RUSSERT: No one told you?


NOVAK: No.


RUSSERT: But they did tell you “his wife.”


NOVAK: He told me his wife worked in the
counterproliferation division of the—they did not say she was a covert
operative, didn't say she was a covered operative. A lot of people say,
“Well, why'd you call her an operative in the column?” I call all kinds
of politicians operatives. It's maybe a bad habit, I—but I still do it.
I see somebody's running a congressional campaign in Wyoming, I'd call
them an operative.

If Karl Rove won't get an apology from Bill Press, perhaps Bob Novak can at least get a correction.

Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield
Matthew Sheffield, creator of NewsBusters and president of Dialog New Media, an internet marketing and design firm, left NewsBusters at the end of 2013