David Shuster has hurled a hand grenade in the direction of one of Washington's most venerable political reporters. The MSNBC "correspondent" has alleged that many people don't believe Robert Novak has "any credibility as a journalist."
View video here.
Shuster sat in as a "Morning Joe" panelist today. His comment came in the context of a discussion regarding the Novak column from over the weekend stating that "agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal opponent for the party's presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, but has decided not to use it."
Shuster's comment came at 7:03 AM ET.
DAVID SHUSTER: You now have the Clinton campaign saying the story is patently false -- it is not true. If Bob, Robert Novak has any integrity as a journalist -- which a lot of people would suggest he doesn't -- he would then say: "OK, here are the Clinton supporters who told me this." And if Bob Novak cannot do that, then I think the egg on the face of Bob Novak is clear.
Chris Matthews appeared in a later segment. The older and wiser head didn't seem particularly clued into the story, needing to have it recapitulated to him, but was willing to take Novak at his word.
View video of Matthews's comments here.
CHRIS MATTHEWS: I think we have to assume that someone fed something to Novak from the Clinton campaign. I don't know how else you look at this, do you?
Shuster certainly had a different way of looking at it: questioning Novak's credibility. Matthews later went explicitly to bat for Novak's credibility.
MATTHEWS: Novak is for real. I mean, people may not like his personality, but in the end, he's generally for real. I mean, he is for real! He's a journalist, and he reports what he gets. And if somebody gave him something, whether it was casual or purposeful, he's [run] with it in his weekend column. Now, the fact that he put it in his "items" column on Saturday probably tells me he didn't think it was that big of a deal. He obviously needs to feed his column, but I take him for real: he got this from a Clinton person.
Matthews hadn't been part of the earlier discussion and didn't realize that by taking Novak at his word he was putting himself at odds with Shuster's intimations about Novak's credibility. It will be interesting to see how Shuster and Matthews hash this out if the "correspondent" turns up on this evening's Hardball.
In any case, expect Robert Novak to fire back. We'll see who winds up with egg on his face.
Aside: Come to think of it, in alleging that "many suggest" that Novak lacks credibility, didn't Shuster himself rely on anonymous sources? By his own standard, shouldn't Shuster name names?
Update 9:06 | Matthew Sheffield. If, according to Shuster, Novak should go public with his sources on this story in the hopes of restoring his credibility, surely Shuster will now go public with who fed him his incorrect information that former White House aide Karl Rove would be indicted. After all, isn't his credibility at stake, too?
Update 12:40| Ken Shepherd. I took the liberty of clipping a video contrasting Shuster's comments with those of Matthews, who noted that Clinton "has a very busy empire" of high-level staffers "who are very aggressive" in pushing talking points out onto the Web and ultimately to the mainstream media.