Bob Novak, the rightwing propagandist who merrily gave away the secret identity of CIA expert in WMD to help President Bush smear a political enemy, was put on suspension yesterday by CNN after he stormed off the set of “Inside Politics.” The reasons for Novak’s snit are the subject of a lot of speculation this morning.
Perhaps it’s unrelated, but yesterday Novak was also attacked head on by Sen. Arlen Specter, the liberal Republican chairman of the Judiciary Committee, over a column Novak wrote about a Senate staffer’s role in hearings related to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. It’s doubtful Novak would take notice of what Specter thinks about his columns – except for the fact that Specter, who once served as the District Attorney of Philadelphia, characterized Novak’s written statements about the staffer with the word “libel.”
Here’s Specter’s letter, which was published in the rightwing New Hampshire Union Leader newspaper:
The Robert Novak syndicated column dated July 21 libeled Ms. Bettilou Taylor, who is one of the most respected, really revered, staffers after serving 16 years in the United States Senate. During that time, she has been my top aide on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education, which I chair. For her superb work in assisting in allocating $146 billion among important social programs, many, including senators, call her Sen. Taylor.
The Novak column falsely and maliciously accuses her of conflict of interest by orchestrating a hearing to grill Kenneth Tomlinson, chairman of the Board of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) while her husband consulted for the Association of Public Television Stations.
The hearing was my idea. As chairman of the subcommittee which provides funding for the CPB, I had to decide whether earlier proposed cuts in the House were warranted and whether the Senate should add $35 million for digitalization programs and $40 million for a new satellite system. Had the Novak column taken the time to call me, the defamation could have been avoided; or, at least, the other side given.
I know something about investigations, perhaps even about investigative reporting, which, as a matter of basic fairness, involves talking to both sides to find the facts.