On the July 27 edition of MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, Washington Post staff writer Mike Allen falsely asserted that former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV claimed that Vice President Dick Cheney sent him to Niger in 2002. In fact, Wilson has made it clear that the CIA, not Cheney, sent him to Niger to investigate the reported sale of uranium to Iraq.
On Hardball, Allen said:
ALLEN: Well, I mean, what we are seeing is there was a germ of accuracy in what Joe Wilson has been going around saying, that the vice president sent him. Yes, the vice president did not personally send him. Maybe he didn`t even know who went. But you can see where Joe Wilson got that idea.
While Allen correctly noted that Cheney did not personally send Wilson to Niger, he wrongly stated that Wilson has asserted that Cheney did. In his July 6, 2003, New York Times op-ed, Wilson wrote that CIA officials sent him to answer questions from Cheney's office about a particular intelligence report. On the August 3, 2003, edition of CNN's Late Edition, Wilson stated that "it's absolutely true that neither the vice president nor Dr. [then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza] Rice nor even [then-Director of Central Intelligence] George Tenet knew that I was traveling to Niger."
The false claim that Wilson stated or implied that Cheney sent him to Niger is significant to the controversy surrounding White House senior adviser Karl Rove's alleged outing of Wilson's wife, former CIA operative Valerie Plame. Rove's defenders have repeated (here, here, and here) this spurious allegation in an attempt to justify Rove's purported leaking of Plame's identity to Time magazine correspondent Matthew Cooper. Rove's defenders have claimed that he had a legitimate interest in setting the record straight, asserting that Plame, not Cheney, had actually authorized the trip. Media Matters for America has also previously debunked the assertion that Plame authorized her husband's trip.
Allen has written numerous articles for The Washington Post on the Plame leak controversy.