June 14, 2006
Media Owe Rove an Apology - or at Least a Few HugsBy Noel Sheppard
In America, people are innocent until proven guilty, unless of course they are Republican.
No finer example of such legal relativism has occurred in recent memory than the case of President Bush's top advisor, Karl Rove. For months, virtually every mainstream media outlet proclaimed his guilt regarding the Valerie Plame Wilson affair, or what has been not so affectionately named the CIA—leak case.
Take for example the media's excitement over pending indictments for Rove. This hit a fevered pitch last fall as Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, after almost two years of research, depositions, and grand jury testimonies, was about to announce his findings on October 28.
Sadly for the drive—by media, no indictments were handed down for Rove that day.
As a result, restaurateurs and bar owners around the country were likely forced to give back millions of dollars in deposits for all the 'Rove is Going to Jail' parties that ended up being cancelled by disappointed Democrats coast to coast.
However, hope — which some ironically claim springs eternal — reemerged in late April when Rove appeared in front of a grand jury for the fifth time to answer more of Fitzgerald's questions. This re—ignited a media firestorm of enthusiasm over the ominous portent for such a visit, raising the possibility that Rove was once again in the prosecutor's crosshairs, and that indictments were imminent.
Giddy Democrats around the country were again making party plans. One can only hope that restaurant and bar managers learned from their previous mistakes, and this time required deposits that were nonrefundable, for as reported by Byron York of the National Review, Rove's attorney Robert Luskin released a statement on Tuesday indicating that there would be no joy in Demville tonight:
Imagine all the wasted confetti and cocktail wieners sitting unused in Democrat warehouses all around the country. This must be especially disheartening coming only days after the killing of al Qaeda leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi.
Yet, before we shed a tear for the grief liberals in America must be feeling, shouldn't we instead be demanding a huge apology — if not at least a couple of hugs — from the drive—by media for their innocent victim?
Certainly, the first of such apologies should come from MSNBC, as no network focused more attention on the possibility of Rove being indicted since he was last questioned by Fitzgerald on April 26 than they. In fact, according to LexisNexis, MSNBC logged 34 separate reports on this subject since Rove's last date with the prosecutor.
Without question the worst offender on MSNBC was correspondent David Shuster, who typically logs reports for Chris Matthews' Hardball, though he is also a frequent guest of Keith Olbermann's Countdown. In the weeks subsequent to April 26, Shuster seemed to make it a personal mission to attack Rove on virtually a daily basis. This crusade culminated on May 8 when, as reported by NewsBusters, Shuster predicted on Countdown that indictments were imminent:
Not so surprisingly, Shuster didn't show his face on either of the two broadcasts of Hardball Tuesday. However, he was a guest on that evening's Countdown, where, according to NewsBusters, he blamed his mistake on his legal sources:
Nice out, David. Very crafty. Even better was how Shuster punctuated his statements of disavowal by suggesting that Fitzgerald would only indict Rove if he felt there was a 99 percent likelihood of winning if it went to trial.
I guess the special prosecutor that worked on this case for two and a half years wasn't as convinced of Rove's guilt as Shuster.
However, on a comical note, a competitor of MSNBC's felt it was important to point out just how wrong Shuster was. NewsBusters reported on Tuesday that Jake Tapper, on ABC's World News Tonight, after stating,
aired the May 8 videotape of Shuster claiming that Rove would be indicted.
You really can't make this stuff up.
Yet, Shuster wasn't the only MSNBCer actively seeking an indictment for Rove. In fact, the person who first offered up Bush's advisor as a target of Fitzgerald's was none other than MSNBC's senior political analyst Lawrence O'Donnell who in July 2005 said on The McLaughlin Group that Rove was the source that Time magazine's Matt Cooper was protecting. Subsequent to that broadcast, O'Donnell wrote twelve pieces for the Huffington Post dealing with the possibility of Rove being indicted.
We can only hope that McLaughlin has O'Donnell on as his guest this Friday evening so that the rest of the gang — conspicuously absent Newsweek's Eleanor Clift who likely is in mourning over this announcement — can help Larry remove all the egg from his face.
Another MSNBCer who should apologize to Rove is Chris Matthews, whose Hardball program prominently featured discussions about pending indictments for Bush's closest advisor on fifteen shows since April 26. The best of these discussions involving Matthews actually occurred on the May 14 installment of the syndicated Sunday show bearing his name. Matthews began the program:
As the discussion ensued, Matthews eagerly asked the following of Newsweek's Howard Fineman:
After the group chatted about this a bit, the following exchange transpired between Matthews and Fineman:
Don't bet the ranch on Newsweek making Rove's exoneration a cover story this Monday. Nor should you make such a wager concerning Matthews admitting he was wrong.
Quite the contrary, on Tuesday's Hardball, Matthews appeared incredulous concerning the lack of an indictment, and focused attention on why the President should act on Rove even if the special prosecutor found no cause. He posed this to Sen. Joe Biden (D—Delaware):
Later in the program, Matthews asked virtually the same question of Sen. Trent Lott (R—Mississippi):
Lott correctly answered:
Clearly, that didn't placate Matthews:
Makes you wonder what Matthews doesn't understand about how the legal system in our country works, doesn't it? Or, is Chris just having a hard time hiding his disappointment?
Regardless, another network that owes Rove an apology is CNN, and especially Jack Cafferty who has logged numerous reports antagonistic to the president's chief advisor. In particular, as reported by NewsBusters, Cafferty on October 17's The Situation Room stated:
Cafferty's e—mail question for viewers that evening was:
More recently on the May 16 installment of The Situation Room, Cafferty stated much the same as Shuster eight days prior:
Cafferty is conveniently off this week. Could he have gotten a tip about Fitzgerald's announcement?
In the end, it is highly doubtful that any of these networks or their representatives will actually acknowledge getting this story wrong, or apologize for impugning the character of one of America's most important political figures this decade. Instead, they are likely to take the Matthews approach, and continue to focus on guilt that a special prosecutor couldn't find after two and a half years of trying. Or, they'll luck out like Cafferty and not have to face the music at all.
One can only hope that Americans will take heed of what has transpired in the past three years since Bob Novak's now—infamous column revealed Plame's name, and recognize that as much as they might distrust politicians, the media are to be held in even lower esteem.
Of course, most polls already suggest such a condition exists. What a shock.
Noel Sheppard is a contributing writer to the Business & Media Institute, as well as a contributing editor for the Media Research Center's NewsBusters.org. Noel welcomes feedback.