Continuing a pattern of ignoring developments in the scandal surrounding Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales and the dismissal of several U.S. attorneys, the May 23 CBS Evening News with Katie Couric was the only network evening news broadcast that did not cover former Justice Department official Monica Goodling's May 23 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee. During her testimony, Goodling stated that she may have "crossed the line" by taking "inappropriate political considerations into account" in hiring career Justice Department officials, potentially a violation of the law. Goodling, a former aide to Gonzales, also suggested that former Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty had lied under oath and that Gonzales may have done so as well during his testimony on the scandal.
By contrast, both NBC and ABC reported on Goodling's testimony on their evening news broadcasts, as did Christian Broadcasting Network's (CBN) The 700 Club. Although 700 Club anchor Lee Webb identified Goodling as a graduate of Regent University, Webb did not make clear that Regent University is an affiliate of CBN.
As anchor Charles Gibson reported during ABC's World News, Goodling "suggested that" Gonzales "may have misled Congress regarding the controversial firing of eight U.S. attorneys," inasmuch as Gonzales "discussed with her his role in the dismissals," despite testifying under oath that "he had not talked to any potential witness" in the investigation. During his May 10 testimony before the same House committee, Gonzales stated that he had "not gone back and spoken directly with" D. Kyle Sampson, his former chief of staff, "and others who are involved in this process, in order to protect the integrity of this investigation. ... I am a fact witness, they are fact witnesses and in order to preserve the integrity of those investigations, I have not asked these specific questions" about the firings of the U.S. attorneys. Additionally, during Gonzales' April 19 testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he stated: "I haven't talked to witnesses because of the fact that I haven't wanted to interfere with this investigation."
According to Goodling's testimony, however, when she approached Gonzales about the possibility of transferring from his office in March, Gonzales "laid out for me his general recollection of ... [s]ome of the process regarding the replacement of the U.S. attorneys" and asked if Goodling had "any reaction." Goodling stated that the conversation "made me a little uncomfortable" because "I did not know if it was appropriate for us to both be discussing our recollections of what had happened, and I just thought maybe we shouldn't have that conversation."
Additionally, as The New York Times reported, "Ms. Goodling also accused Paul J. McNulty, the outgoing deputy attorney general, of misleading Congress when he testified on Feb. 6 to a Senate panel. Specifically, she said Mr. McNulty knew more details about the White House involvement in the firings than he acknowledged in his testimony."
From Goodling's testimony:
I believe the deputy was not fully candid about his knowledge of White House involvement in the replacement decision, failed to disclose that he had some knowledge of the White House's interest in selecting Tim Griffin as the interim U.S. attorney in the Eastern District of Arkansas, inaccurately described the department's internal assessment of the Parsky commission, and failed to disclose that he had some knowledge of allegations that Tim Griffin had been involved in vote- cadging during his work on the president's 2004 campaign.
As Media Matters for America has noted, Griffin is a former aide to White House senior adviser Karl Rove who replaced H.E. "Bud" Cummins III in December 2006. As the Times reported, following Goodling's testimony, "McNulty sharply denied her assertions. 'I testified truthfully at the Feb. 6, 2007, hearing based on what I knew at that time,' he said in a statement. 'Ms. Goodling's characterization of my testimony is wrong and not supported by the extensive record of documents and testimony already provided to Congress.' "
Despite the significance of Goodling's testimony, the CBS Evening News did not report on the story during its May 23 broadcast -- the only network that did not do so. As Media Matters noted, CBS was initially slow to report on the U.S. attorney scandal and has omitted some new developments altogether. Most recently, the CBS Evening News did not report on former Deputy Attorney General James B. Comey's May 15 congressional testimony regarding what Nightly News anchor Brian Williams called a "rare glimpse of a high-level, late-night power struggle" among the Justice Department, the FBI, and the White House over the National Security Agency's warrantless domestic wiretapping program. As NBC News justice correspondent Pete Williams reported, Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee that Gonzales, who was then White House counsel, and Andrew Card, then-White House chief of staff, attempted to pressure then-Attorney General John Ashcroft "at his [hospital] bedside ... to approve an extension of the secret NSA warrantless eavesdropping program over strong Justice Department objections even though Ashcroft was seriously ill" and did not have power as the attorney general during his recovery from surgery.
From the May 23 edition of ABC's World News with Charles Gibson:
GIBSON: On Capitol Hill today, a former aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales suggested that he may have misled Congress regarding the controversial firing of eight U.S. attorneys.
Monica Goodling told the House Judiciary Committee that Mr. Gonzales discussed with her his role in the dismissals. But Mr. Gonzales testified under oath that he had not talked to any potential witnesses. Ms. Goodling also acknowledged that she crossed the line by letting politics influence who was hired at the Justice Department.
From the May 23 edition of NBC's Nightly News:
BRIAN WILLIAMS: Also in Washington today, another key player in the controversial firing of those eight U.S. U.S. [sic] attorneys testified in front of a packed House Judiciary Committee hearing. Monica Goodling was a top aide to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the Justice Department's liaison to the Bush White House. She told lawmakers today that she, quote, "crossed the line," by making hiring decisions for career positions based on Republican Party credentials. But she said she never discussed the prosecutor firings with top White House aides.
GOODLING [video clip]: To the best of my recollection, I've never had a conversation with Karl Rove or [former White House counsel] Harriet Miers while I served at the Department of Justice, and I'm certain that I never spoke to either of them about the hiring or firing of any U.S. attorney.
WILLIAMS: She went on to say that Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty knew more than he admitted to Congress about the extent of White House involvement in all this. McNulty denied that today, saying Goodling's testimony was wrong and not supported by the record of documents and testimony already given.
From the 11 p.m. ET airing of the May 23 edition of the Christian Broadcasting Network's The 700 Club:
WEBB: Another person testified today about the firings of those eight U.S. attorneys. It is a scandal that some say could still cost Attorney General Alberto Gonzales his job. Monica Goodling resigned from her Justice Department post after the firings. Today, under immunity from prosecution, Goodling said former Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty falsely accused her of with holding information in preparation for his Senate testimony. Goodling said McNulty had known for months that the White House signed off on those final firings. Goodling, a graduate of Regent University, denies committing any crime. But she admits she crossed the line by using politics to determine who to hire.
GOODLING [video clip]: I do acknowledge that I may have gone too far in asking political questions of applicants for career positions, and I may have taken inappropriate political considerations into account on some occasions, and I regret those mistakes.
WEBB: Today, one Republican on the committee said the government is wasting too much time and money on this investigation.