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An Exhibition of Conservative Paranoia

Exhibit 45: Armitage-O-Philia

NewsBusters just can't stop falsely claiming that Richard Armitage was the first, or the only, person involved in outing Valerie Plame.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 4/9/2008

When Lewis "Scooter" Libby, former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, was found guilty of lying and obstruction of justice in the investigation into the leak of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame in March 2007, the ConWeb predictably ran to Libby's defense. In the lead was NewsBusters with their big talking point: It was former deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage, not Libby, who leaked Plame's identity:

  • Mark Finkelstein: "If there is one fact that is undisputed, and undisputable, it is that neither Libby nor VP Cheney nor anyone in the White House first leaked Valerie Plame's identity. It was good old Richard Armitage over at the State Department."
  • Brent Baker complained that TV news reports didn't mention "how Novak learned of Plame's identity from then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage."
  • Finkelstein again: "[N]either Cheney nor Libby could have 'leaked' Plame's identity since it was, thanks to Richard Armitage, already out there."
  • Scott Whitlock: "Valerie Plame, wife of ex-Ambassador Joe Wilson, had her identity revealed to reporter Bob Novak by an administration critic, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage."
  • Tim Graham noted "State Department official Richard Armitage, who withheld the fact that he leaked to Robert Novak, which started the whole scandal train."
  • Dave Pierre referenced "Richard Armitage, who was Robert Novak's primary source in a column that ignited the entire firestorm."

The problem with this fixation on Armitage? It ignores the fact that Bush White House officials were, in fact, making an effort to out Plame. As Media Matters noted at the time, special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald alleged that, in 2003, "multiple people in the White House" engaged in a "concerted action" to "discredit, punish, or seek revenge against" Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, over a July 2003 New York Times op-ed in which he cast doubt over President Bush's claims about Iraqi attempts to buy uranium from Niger.

Further, while Armitage leaked Plame's identity to columnist Robert Novak, who revealed it in a column on July 14, 2003, column -- published eight days after the appearance of Wilson's Times op-ed -- both Libby and former Bush adviser Karl Rove discussed Plame's identity with reporters. According to Fitzgerald's indictment of Libby, Libby discussed Plame's CIA employment with New York Times reporter Judith Miller on two occasions prior to Novak's column, and Time magazine reporter Matthew Cooper claimed that Rove disclosed her CIA identity to him three days before the publication of Novak's column, and he confirmed Plame's identity for Novak.

Thus, Armitage was not the first or only person to leak Plame's identity; the person to whom he leaked -- inadvertently, he claimed -- was merely the first to publish it.

That's an inoperative -- if not completely false -- talking point. So you'd think NewsBusters would stop using it, right?


NewsBusters was priming and promoting the false meme the minute Armitage's involvement was revealed. A September 2006 post by Matthew Sheffield, for instance, called Armitage "the source of the much-ballyhooed Valerie Plame 'leak,'" and a post from Baker at the same time insisted Armitage "was the one who revealed how Joe Wilson's wife worked for the CIA."

But even after it was clear that Rove and Libby were leaking Plame's identity as well as Armitage, NewsBusters endeavored to heap the blame for the leak on Armitage alone.

In a July 3, 2007, NewsBusters post, Finkelstein claimed that NBC's Lester Holt was "obfuscating an important fact" when he suggested that Fitzgerald "never really got to the root of this case" against Libby. Finkelstein responded: "The prosecutor never got to the root of the case? Sure he did. He knew all along that the leaker wasn't Libby, but Richard Armitage over at the State Department," further insisting that "the fundamental reason that Libby wasn't charged with leaking was that he was not the leaker."

In a July 5, 2007, post, Baker noted of network news coverage of Libby's sentencing: "As occurred back on March 6, neither CBS or ABC uttered the name of the leaker: Richard Armitage." Perhaps because he wasn't "the leaker."

In a July 12 post, Ken Shepherd asserted that the Associated Press, in an article mentioning the investigation of Libby, "left COMPLETELY unmentioned" that "then-Undersecretary of State Richard Armitage, a critic of the Iraq war who reported directly to Colin Powell, NOT directly under Bush or Cheney in the White House, was the official who leaked Plame's CIA employment status. I mean, why let facts get in the way of a perfectly good managed storyline?" A July 19 post by Shepherd referenced "Plame name leaker Richard Armitage."

Baker tried to parse things in an Aug. 14 NewsBusters post and MRC CyberAlert item, Brent Baker was upset that news reports on Karl Rove's resignation "highlighted his 'leaking' of Valerie Plame's name," claiming that "while Rove may have mentioned her employer to reporters, it was Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage's leak to columnist Robert Novak which got her name and CIA employment into the news media." As far as Baker is concerned, Rove didn't leak Plame's identity; he merely "mentioned her employer to reporters." Apparently, that's not a leak.

An Aug. 3, 2007, post by P.J. Gladnick attacks actor Alec Baldwin for stating that, in a Huffington Post item on what he'd do if he were president, he would "prosecute whoever is responsible for outing Valerie Plame as a CIA agent" by insisting that Armitage was "the leaker":

At this point you would think that Baldwin would lash out at the leaker, Richard Armitage, or at Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald for protecting Armitage by failing to prosecute him despite knowing that Armitage was the guilty one from the very beginning of his laughable investigation.


All this outrage and Baldwin still continues to miss the obvious targets of Armitage and Fitzgerald.


Of course, facts won't deter Baldwin from flailing foolishly away. He concludes his blog with another demand for the prosecution of whoever leaked (hint: Richard Armitage) the sacred name of St. Valerie:


And, Alec, you owe us an explanation of how you could write an entire rant about prosecuting whoever leaked Valerie Plame's name without once mentioning the name of the leaker, Richard Armitage, or the Special Counsel, Patrick Fitzgerald, who refused to prosecute him.

Gladnick followed up, in an Aug. 19 post declaring that San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford was suffering from "Rove Derangement Syndrome" in a rant against Karl Rove in which he says among other things that Rove "intentionally commit[ted] treason by leaking the name of a CIA agent to reporters in an insidious attempt to silence critics of your boss' horribly failed war," by asserting:

Committed treason for leaking the name of Valery [sic] Plame? Oh yeah, that must have been why Karl Rove was indicted by Patrick Fitzgerald on May 12 of last year. Or was that Richard Armitage who really did leak that name but which the left has conveniently tossed down the memory hole? 

An Oct. 19, 2007, post by Kyle Drennen claimed that a CBS promotion for an interview with Plame "completely leaves out the fact that person responsible for giving Plame’s name to Novak was former Undersecretary of State, Richard Armitage, who mentioned her name in an interview with Novak and was never charged with any crime." In another Oct. 19 post, Brent Baker similarly writes that "Novak got the name from Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a political enemy of Dick Cheney and Karl Rove who opposed the Iraq war."

In an Oct. 29 NewsBusters post, Mark Finkelstein complained that during an interview with Valerie Plame, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough "the name of the State Department official who first disclosed her identity was never uttered. That wouldn't have fit the template that her name was leaked as the result of a nasty White House plot to punish Plame's husband Joe Wilson." Of course, as noted above, there was a plot to punish Wilson.

This hammering of a false claim continued, amazingly, well into 2008.

In a Feb. 27 NewsBusters post, Ken Shepherd claimed that "CBS liberal hack legal analyst Andrew Cohen" "erroneously smeared [Karl] Rove with responsibility for the Valerie Plame leak," insisting that Richard Armitage "took responsibility for the leak." But it's not a "smear" to say Rove leaked her name; it's a fact. What Armitage did doesn't erase what Rove did.

And in a March 6 post attacking an article in the Israeli paper Haaretz for coming to the defense of "anti-American" New York Times reporters who committed the offense of "deciding what information is and is not legal to leak and print- never mind that we elect Presidents, Senators and Representatives to do this," Richard Newcomb busts out the canard one more time with a special added factual error:

Haaretz goes on to bring up the infamous Valerie Plame hoax to support their argument that the Bush Administratioj [sic] is 'waging war on journalists', repeating the false claim that Vice-President Richard Cheney's then chief of staff, L. Lewis Libby leaked Plame's name. As a matter of fact, it was State Department hack Richard Armitage who actually first mentioned Plame's name, though I am not sure how much leaking was involved concerning someone who was listed as a CIA employee in Who's Who!

In fact, Plame was not "listed as a CIA employee in Who's Who!"; she was listed only as the wife of Wilson with no mention of job title.

Such is the nature of accuracy at NewsBusters -- when you've been peddling one false claim for years, what's another false claim on top of it?

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