Shuster, Olbermann Misconstrue Libby Testimony-- Deliberate or Not?

On Thursday's "Countdown," we learned from Keith Olbermann that:

  • The CIA leak investigation roars back to life. Scooter Libby claimed he had been authorized to reveal classified information, authorized by his boss, the vice president.
  • Newly disclosed documents indicating that the vice president's former chief of staff already has testified that he was authorized by his superiors to disclose classified information to reporters in order to make the a case for war in Iraq...
  • If he's defending himself by saying, Well, he did, and saying the vice president told him to, because that's not really germane to this case, did he just throw the vice president of the United States under the proverbial bus?

Note how the wording of these statements leaves the impression that the authorization claimed by Libby included the Plame leak. Did it? What is it that Olbermann isn't telling us this time?

"We also note that it is our understanding that Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information about the NIE to the press by his superiors," Fitzgerald wrote.

Compare what Fitzgerald actually wrote with how Olbermann reported it. According to Fitzgerald's letter, Libby stated he had been authorized to release information about the National Intelligence Estimate, a report prepared by the various intelligence agencies for the President. (The NIE was itself declassified and released openly to the press days later.) For all his tabloid sensationalism, Olbermann never once tells his viewers that this quote from Fitzgerald is about the NIE, not an all-encompassing permission slip to willy-nilly release "information". And certainly not any kind of authorization to leak the name of Valerie Plame.

But there was more to the report. David Shuster, an NBC correspondent, was brought in to give the details and analysis. Now Olbermann's obfuscations surely would be clarified.

Shuster came on to read from the actual Fitzgerald letter. To make the point that you were getting the straight story, he waved the document in front of the camera:


Shuster then purported to quote from the letter and here are his words, from the official MSNBC transcript which we have verified with the broadcast itself:

This is a document released by the court. It's a letter from Patrick Fitzgerald to Scooter Libby's legal team. And it says, "As we discussed during our telephone conversation, Mr. Libby testified that he was authorized to disclose information to the press by his superiors."

Now Shuster conflated two different parts of the letter to create his composite quotation, but that's not the key point here. The key point is that Shuster doctored Fitzgerald's quote, surgically removing three critical words: "about the NIE". Fizgerald's quote of Libby was specifically about the NIE leak that occurred in July of 2003, not the Valerie Plame leak or any other leak. During the entire conversation between Olbermann and Shuster--in fact, during that entire broadcast of The Hour of Spin--the NIE was never mentioned. Not once.

It's bad enough when Olbermann spins the news to suit his agenda. But here we have an NBC News correspondent who is supposed to be a responsible journalist. David Shuster took it upon himself to cut and paste Fitzgerald's words, while waving the document in front of the camera to lead viewers to believe they were getting the truth. And by the sheerest of coincidences, his rewrite just happened to conform to Keith Olbermann's spin of the day.

Cross-posted at Olbermann Watch.

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