Why is it important for the media, especially the progressive media, to get the facts right regarding the CIA leak case? Before we answer that, let’s note Democracy Now’s news coverage of the story yesterday (program audio) . The audio trailer for the story contains this statement (I assume by Mel Goodman since he’s featured in the interview:
Lewis Libby first learned about the Valerie Plame name from the Vice-President himself, Dick Cheney.
This is Amy Goodman introducing the story:
The New York Times is reporting today it was Vice President Dick Cheney, who first informed his chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, that Valerie Plame was an undercover CIA operative.
The problem with this is that it’s WRONG, dead wrong. Here’s what the NYT story DOES say:
Mr. Libby’s notes indicate that Mr. Cheney had gotten his information about Ms. Wilson from George J. Tenet, the director of central intelligence, in response to questions from the vice president about Mr. Wilson. But they contain no suggestion that either Mr. Cheney or Mr. Libby knew at the time of Ms. Wilson’s undercover status or that her identity was classified.
The notes do not show that Mr. Cheney knew the name of Mr. Wilson’s wife. But they do show that Mr. Cheney did know and told Mr. Libby that Ms. Wilson was employed by the Central Intelligence Agency and that she may have helped arrange her husband’s trip.
What we have here is journalists who reported the story they WANTED to hear, but not the real story. Now, you could chalk all this up to a highly ideologically-charged newscast (characteristic of Democracy Now) which wears its biases on its sleeve.
But I think it’s very important for the media to get the facts right in this case and to speak with great precision and even circumspection. There’s more than enough outrage here to go around and if the story is simply reported as it happens, then the American people will know what to feel about it. If the media overdoes it or misspeaks then you’ll have a Rathergate in which the right-wing can crow with glee at the media’s mistakes and thereby discredit both the media and the investigation itself. This investigation is too important to allow such mistakes to cloud its pursuit.
So journalists out there, redouble your efforts to get this story right.