Many major media outlets continue to ignore story of missing White House emails

››› ››› RAPHAEL SCHWEBER-KOREN

Last week, Media Matters for America documented how most media outlets failed to report that special counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the lead prosecutor in the CIA leak case, wrote -- in a letter to defense attorneys for former vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby -- that numerous White House emails from 2003 are missing from White House computer archives. A further review by Media Matters has found that most major media outlets have continued to ignore this story; specifically, no reports on the missing emails have been found on any of the three major broadcast networks (ABC, NBC, and CBS), The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, or the Reuters wire service.

On October 28, 2005, a grand jury indicted Libby on five counts of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements to the FBI. Made public as part of a recent court filing, Fitzgerald's letter was sent in response to requests by Libby's legal team that the prosecutor turn over a large number of documents pertaining to the defendant. At the end of the letter, in which he refused the request, Fitzgerald wrote:

We are aware of no evidence pertinent to the charges against defendant Libby which has been destroyed. In an abundance of caution, we advise you that we have learned that not all e-mail of the Office of Vice President and the Executive Office of the President for certain time periods in 2003 was preserved through the normal archiving process on the White House computer system.

While the February 4 broadcast of the CBS Evening News did report on the unsealing of more documents in the case, the report did not mention the missing e-mails. Media Matters' February 2 review has previously noted the Associated Press' February 1 report by staff writer Pete Yost and Dan Froomkin's February 2 washingtonpost.com "White House Briefing" column. The Post's print edition has not published a story regarding the missing e-mails. The February 2 Los Angeles Times published Yost's report. While Yost's report also appeared on washingtonpost.com, it did not appear in either the February 2 or the February 3 print editions of the Post.

The Media Matters review consisted of searches in the Lexis-Nexis database and Factiva of the three broadcast networks, the Associated Press, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, and the Reuters wire service. These searches turned up no articles on any of these media outlets on the missing emails for February 1 through the morning of February 7. The Lexis-Nexis search was "(Plame or Fitzgerald) w/20 (e-mail or email or message or delete or missing or archive)" for 2/1/2006 through 2/7/2006, while the Factiva searches (The Wall Street Journal and Reuters) were "(Plame or Fitzgerald) /n20/ (e-mail or email or message or delete or missing or archive)" for 2/1/2006 to 2/7/2006; and "Plame /n20/ Fitzgerald" for 2/1/2006 to 2/7/2006.

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