CNN's Mark Preston Sticks Up For Stephanopoulos

CNN Political Editor Mark Preston posted a 160-word item on the network's Political Ticker this afternoon celebrating with glee a seven-word smack-down from "This Week" host George Stephanopoulos to Republican Congressman Adam Putnam of the Florida 12th. The Congressman, participating in a round-table discussion with show host Stephanopoulos and Congressman Rahm Emanuel of the Illinois 5th, both of whom served in the Clinton White House, contrasted the Mark Foley flap with the Monica Lewinsky scandal that erupted during President Clinton's second term. "[Foley's] resignation was demanded within hours," Putnam said. "Contrast that to previous scandals, where, frankly, two people at this table have had to cover for their former boss' sexual misdeeds while in office, and did not demand his resignation." Stephanopoulos responded to Putnam by saying that he left the Clinton administration in 1996, two years before the Lewinsky scandal broke. To his credit, in February 1998 Stephanopoulos did differ sharply from the official White House party line by urging his former boss to tell "his side of the story," and suggested early in the scandal that the apparent funny business at 1600 Penn. could lead to an impeachment. Congressman Putnam's criticism of Stephanopoulos was indeed off the mark. But as recently as 2004, Congressman Emanuel, who shared the segment with Preston, tried to frame the Lewinsky scandal and the subsequent impeachment as part of a vast right-wing conspiracy. Appearing on CNN shortly after the 2004 election, Emanuel said, "There was an apparatus. There were people that from the moment of his presidency -- it goes back to the days as governor. I still believe the Lewinsky investigation was way off from the focus of what Whitewater was, which turned out to be nothing at the end of the process. And I think that there were people who were determined as political opponents to not allow his presidency to succeed." And as far as that goes, Putnam had an excellent point. But CNN's Preston ignored that aspect of the exchange entirely, focusing on the Stephanopoulos issue exclusively. And his giggly excitement just dripped off the page. "For a fleeting moment Sunday," Preston wrote, "it seemed as if Rep. Adam Putnam, R-Florida, had successfully landed a stinging political jab against a Democratic adversary and a one-time Democratic operative turned respected media star. Except for one thing, the facts got in the way." By focusing on Putnam's mischaracterization of Stephanopoulos and ignoring his entirely accurate characterization of Emanuel, Preston became that which he mocked. In fact, the contrast between Stephanopoulos' public comments on the Lewinsky affair -- sorry, no pun intended -- and Congressman Emanuel's specifically proves the point that Putnam was trying to make. You see, for a fleeting moment Sunday, it seemed as if CNN's Mark Preston had successfully landed a stinging political jab against a Republican Congressman. Except for one thing. The facts got in his way.