Why let truth ruin a good story?

Tom Nardi

On Friday, the most popular enigma in the American political realm was called to testify before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Valerie Plame Wilson testified under oath regarding the role of politics in intelligence. For those of you who’ve been unconscious recently, Plame Wilson is the woman who was outed by the Bush Administration during the run-up to the war in Iraq in an effort to discredit her war-opponent husband, Joe Wilson.

The right-wing news media – cough, Fox News, cough – has been going out of its way recently to discredit Plame Wilson. There has been much commotion about whether or not she was a covert operative at the time of her outing. Why focus on that particular issue? Well, the thinking goes that if Plame Wilson was not covert, then no crime was committed in outing her.

On March 6, Brit Hume told the world that, “Whether the woman was covert, Valerie Plame was covert within the meaning of the law, remains at this point still unclear. Unlikely she was.”

Yet, in her sworn testimony, Plame Wilson contradicted that statement in a precise line of questioning from Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md. Cummings asked Plame Wilson if, in the past five years, she went on covert overseas operations on behalf of the United States. Under oath, Plame Wilson said she did. In fact, CIA Director General Michael Hayden, a recent Bush appointee who can in no way be accused of partisan bias, confirmed that Plame Wilson was indeed covert at the time she was outed in a Robert Novak column.

So, given this sworn testimony, one might expect Hume to apologize. At the time of his statement, there was no real way for Hume to have known that Plame Wilson was covert, so the fact that he guessed wrong really isn’t damning in regards to his journalistic integrity. But his follow-up is.

Last Sunday after the Wilson testimony, not only did Hume fail to retract his statement about Plame Wilson’s covert status, but he also accused her of perjury in a separate matter. One of the most definitive statements Plame Wilson made was about whether or not she recommended her husband for the mission to Niger in 2002 on which he found no evidence of administration claims that Iraq attempted to obtain yellowcake uranium in Africa. Plame Wilson said, “I did not suggest him. I did not recommend him. There was no nepotism involved. I did not have the authority.” But Hume decided he knew more about Plame Wilson than she did – again.

To be fair, I can to see how Hume made the mistake of thinking what he did. In fact, it’s an easy conclusion to make. But that doesn’t justify it. It’s lazy journalism. Hume’s accusation is largely based on a part of a report by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, in which Pat Roberts, Orrin Hatch and Kit Bond (R, obviously) stated unequivocally that Plame Wilson advocated on behalf of her husband.

This ignores the statements of the entire CIA, Wilson and Plame Wilson. I guess that a few right-wing ideologues know more about what is going on in the intelligence community than the intelligence community.

But we shouldn’t be surprised at this shoddy reporting style coming from Fox News. This is the station that, for days, ran with the story that Barack Obama went to a fundamentalist Islamic school in Indonesia, when it was really a secular state-run school.

But hey, why let facts get in the way of a good story?

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Tom Nardi is a junior political science major from Philadelphia, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected]