Today's LA Times On Libby Case: 8 Articles, 20 Photos, and 8,406 Words (Plus 1 Half-Truth)

March 7th, 2007 11:02 PM

Do you think the folks at the Los Angeles Times were a wee-bit excited over the "Scooter" Libby verdict yesterday? Today's paper (Wednesday, March 7, 2007) devoted no less than eight articles, twenty photos, and an unbelievable 8,406 words to the story of the verdict. Unable to contain their glee, columnists harped breathlessly that the verdict "erod[es]" the Bush administration's "already weak credibility on Iraq" and "sullies the integrity of [the] administration." (link)

The eight articles include five news stories, an editorial, plus two op-ed pieces. The twenty photos include a photo gallery of 14 people under the heading of "The principal players." Curiously, none of these "principal players" include Richard Armitage, who was Robert Novak's primary source in a column that ignited the entire firestorm.

(Under the photo of Robert Novak in the "principal players" gallery (link), the Times writes (italics mine), "The columnist disclosed publicly in July 2003 that Plame was a CIA officer. He said his sources on Plame were White House political director Karl Rove and then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage." Notice that the Times puts Rove's name first. C'mon. This is misleading and unfair. In his September 14, 2006, column, Novak clearly wrote that "[Armitage], not Karl Rove, was the leaker" and that "Armitage's silence ... enabled partisan Democrats in Congress to falsely accuse Rove of being my primary source." In a July 13, 2006, column, Novak acknowledged that Rove merely "confirm[ed] my primary source's information.")

Compare this hyperventilating, over-the-top treatment of the Libby verdict to the way the Times covered the pilfering of documents from the National Archives by Sandy Berger. Back in 2004, when the Berger story first broke, the Times' coverage of the story was astonishingly weak. (I grumped about that in this article I wrote back then.) In September 2005, when Berger was sentenced (very lightly, we might add) after admitting to taking and destroying documents, the Times stuffed the news into a minuscule 100 words in the "In Brief" section. "In Brief"? Good grief.

In the two-plus years that the Berger theft was written about, the Times archives reveals only seven articles directly related to the crime. Two of the seven appeared in the "In Brief" section. Only two actually made it to the front page (none of which appeared at the top).

Meanwhile, a search of "Plame Wilson Iraq" returns 112 results for section A alone! Twenty-six of the articles were on the front page.

Disparate coverage? Of course.