CBS's Plante Defends 'Smart-assed' Rove Question

Admitting it was "smart-assed," CBS White House correspondent nonetheless defended his now-infamous "If he's so smart, how come you lost Congress?" quip from Monday's White House South Lawn farewell for Rove. Interviewed by blogger Matthew Felling, Plante did concede that he welcomes scrutiny of how the press functions, especially in live press conference settings.

Said Plante at the close of his interview:

I’m absolutely and totally in favor of openness, even if it makes us look bad. The public is entitled to see what we see – and, increasingly, they do because of live coverage. If that means they see me or hear me asking what they think is an impertinent question, that’s fine. I’ve got no problem with it.

Glad to hear it, Bill, because we at NewsBusters are happy to oblige.

Below is an excerpt of the PublicEye interview:

Matthew Felling: Interesting week. Anything surprise you?

Bill Plante: Nothing much, actually. Anytime you challenge or appear to challenge the president – and I don’t care if the president is a Republican or a Democrat – there are people who will take issue with it and tell you it’s inappropriate. And you kind of expect that. I knew that was I did on Monday was smart-assed, but I think that that’s beside the point.

Our asking questions should not be dependent on what the White House thinks the mood or the tone of an event should be. And the fact that they say ‘no questions’ or don’t allow time for questions really has nothing to do with it. They don’t have to answer, but I think we need to preserve and aggressively push our right to ask.

Matthew Felling: This week, you asked a question, it got uploaded on the web, it got broadcast everywhere. Did you see any increased polarization or partisanship in the responses you received?

Bill Plante: Yes, the response was instant because of the Internet. In this case, my question got put up on DCFishbowl and then on Drudge, so then it spread like wildfire. That’s no surprise, since there are people that monitor those sites and others everyday.

When I did this 20 years ago in the Rose Garden, I yelled a question at Ronald Reagan at the ‘Teacher of the Year’ event as he was leaving and going inside. Several of the teachers complained and said I disrupted things and that it was inappropriate. In that case, I got a few phone calls but then had to wait for the angry letters to come in. Then after that, I wrote a Washington Post Outlook piece about questioning the president. It took more than a week to play out.

But in this case, it was instantaneous, of course. But I know that’s how things happen these days.

In an unrelated note of interest, Bill Plante may be a biased liberal journalist, but at least one apple fell far from the ideological tree as son Chris Plante, also a journalist (formerly with CNN), is a conservative-leaning talk show host here in Washington on WMAL radio (630 AM).

CBS Online Media CBS online Government & Press Journalistic Issues