Fox's Snow falsely claimed that Wilson said Plame was not covert

››› ››› BEN ARMBRUSTER

On The O'Reilly Factor, guest host Tony Snow repeated the false claim that Valerie Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, said his wife "wasn't covert for six years" before she was exposed as a CIA operative by Robert Novak in a July 14, 2003, column. In fact, Wilson never made such a statement.

On the February 3 edition of The O'Reilly Factor, guest host Tony Snow repeated the false claim that Valerie Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, said his wife "wasn't covert for six years" before she was exposed as a CIA operative by syndicated columnist Robert Novak in his July 14, 2003, column.

However, Media Matters for America has previously noted (here and here) that Wilson did not say that.

Snow's false claim appears to be in reference to a comment Wilson made in an interview on the July 14, 2005, edition of CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports. In the interview, Wilson stated: "My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity."

From the July 14, 2005, edition of CNN's Wolf Blitzer Reports, which featured host Wolf Blitzer:

BLITZER: The -- but the other argument that's been made against you is that you've sought to capitalize on this extravaganza, having that photo shoot with your wife [in the January 2004 Vanity Fair magazine], who was a clandestine officer of the CIA, and that you've tried to enrich yourself writing this book and all of that.

What do you make of those accusations, again, which are serious accusations, as you know, that have been leveled against you?

WILSON: My wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity.

BLITZER: But she hadn't been a clandestine officer for some time before that?

WILSON: That's not anything that I can talk about. And, indeed, I'll go back to what I said earlier, the CIA believed that a possible crime had been committed, and that's why they referred it to the Justice Department.

She was not a clandestine officer at the time that that article in Vanity Fair appeared.

Media Matters previously noted that following Wilson's initial July 2005 comment, some media outlets inaccurately reported that Wilson said his wife was not covert at the time of Novak's column. But Wilson simply noted that Plame's identity was no longer secret after Novak publicly revealed it. In fact, when Blitzer specifically asked Wilson if his wife "hadn't been a clandestine officer for some time before" Novak's column was published, Wilson responded that he could not comment on her past status as an undercover officer, but noted that "the CIA believed that a possible crime had been committed." The implication of Wilson's statement is clear: Had Plame not been a clandestine officer at the time Novak published her identity, the CIA would not have believed a possible crime had been committed.

Soon after that CNN interview, Wilson clarified his remarks, and many media outlets, such as the Associated Press, corrected the error. For example, in a July 15, 2005, article, the AP revised its report on Wilson's comment:

In an interview on CNN earlier Thursday before the latest revelation, Wilson kept up his criticism of the White House, saying Rove's conduct was an "outrageous abuse of power ... certainly worthy of frog-marching out of the White House."

Wilson also said "my wife was not a clandestine officer the day that Bob Novak blew her identity."

In an interview Friday, Wilson said his comment was meant to reflect that his wife lost her ability to be a covert agent because of the leak, not that she had stopped working for the CIA beforehand.

From the February 3 edition of Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor:

SNOW: Very quickly -- very quickly, you got this Valerie Plame case. Now, it turns out that [special counsel] Peter (sic: Patrick) Fitzgerald doesn't -- can't even identify any harm. She wasn't a covert agent. She wasn't compromised.

As a result, what you're doing is possibly sending a senior administration official off about a faulty memory over something that wasn't a crime.

Meanwhile, you got [CIA director] Porter Goss saying that there's serious damage here. Don't you think this deserves at least an opportunity to try to figure out what happened?

CROWLEY: Well, I'll take exception with you. The fact that we had a covert operative that was exposed, it's possible.

SNOW: She wasn't covert anymore. Even her husband says she wasn't covert for six years.

Posted In
Government, Cabinet & Agencies, National Security & Foreign Policy, War in Iraq
Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Tony Snow
Show/Publication
The O'Reilly Factor
Stories/Interests
CIA Leak Investigation
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