Russert-to-Novak ‘News Tidbits’ Criticized

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By: E&P Staff

Columnist Robert Novak’s report that he received “news tidbits” from late “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert does not make Slate editor at large Jack Shafer happy.

“Sharing information with another reporter is completely kosher,” wrote Shafer. “I do it daily, almost hourly, as do many journalists. But the Novak-Russert relationship poses a couple of questions. Why couldn’t Russert use the tidbits? Was the information tainted? Was it information about Democratic Party powers that former Democratic operative Russert couldn’t use?

“Nobody in Washington, not even saints, gives away something for nothing. Why was it in Russert’s interest to steer a decade-and-a-half worth of information to Novak for almost no payoff except to see the information used? Was Russert protecting himself by feeding Novak, or did Novak owe him and feel obliged to use the information?”

Shafer later added: “Russert’s long service as an anonymous source to Novak, aka the prince of darkness, requires further explanation.”

Novak is most known in recent years for a 2003 column naming Valerie Plame when she was a CIA operative. Two Bush administration officials leaked her name to the Chicago Sun-Times/Creators Syndicate writer in what observers saw as retaliation for Plame’s husband criticizing the administration’s Iraq War policies.

Shafer’s complete piece can be seen here.

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