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On the October 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity & Colmes, former Speaker of the House and Fox News analyst Newt Gingrich (R-GA) wrongly presented as fact the claim that former CIA operative Valerie Plame, the wife of former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, was responsible for arranging Wilson's February 2002 trip to investigate purported efforts by Iraq to obtain uranium from Niger. The facts surrounding Wilson's selection for the trip are disputed.
In addition, Gingrich suggested that when Wilson made public his findings from that trip, he "guaranteed that his wife would be outed." But, in fact, Bush administration officials reportedly had undertaken steps to discredit Wilson even before the publication of his July 6, 2003, op-ed in The New York Times challenging administration claims that Saddam Hussein had sought to acquire uranium from Niger. The effort to discredit Wilson reportedly included disclosing his wife's connection with the CIA and her purported role in selecting him for the trip.
Gingrich promoted as certain the questionable claim that Plame had secured the Niger assignment for Wilson. As Media Matters for America has explained on multiple occasions, CIA officials have disputed reports of Plame's role in recruiting Wilson for the assignment. According to CIA officials, a State Department Bureau of Intelligence and Research memo claiming Plame had suggested Wilson for the mission was written by an INR analyst who could not possibly have attended the meeting where Wilson's selection took place. In its report on prewar intelligence about Iraq, the Senate Intelligence Committee did not reach a conclusion on the question, mentioning reports indicating that Plame had indeed suggested her husband but also indicating that officials from the CIA's Counterproliferation Division were not in accord with this conclusion.
Gingrich's further contention, that Wilson's public criticism of the Bush administration "guaranteed" Plame's outing, relies on a dubious chronology of events. Gingrich presumes that the deliberate outing of Plame occurred after Wilson made his allegations public in his Times op-ed. But as Media Matters has noted New York Times reporter Judith Miller has testified to the federal grand jury investigating the case that Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, had disclosed Plame's identity to her well in advance of Wilson's op-ed. In her own account of her testimony before the grand jury, Miller said that "well before Mr. Wilson published his critique, Mr. Libby told me that Mr. Wilson's wife may have worked on unconventional weapons at the C.I.A."
From the October 19 edition of Fox News' Hannity and Colmes:
GINGRICH: As you know, I've always been very doubtful about this whole case, because I always thought that ambassador Wilson guaranteed that his wife would be outed when he became a public figure in a job that she had gotten for him. I didn't understand how he thought that could possibly --
HANNITY: Good point.
GINGRICH: -- work out without her having -- ending up, you know, being outed.