Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tossing the Plame Lawsuit

Tonight I saw a brief report on Fox News regarding the Valerie Plame lawsuit accusing President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, Scooter Libby and others of outing her covert CIA status.

In their reporting Fox indicated that the judge's decision read "the act of rebutting public criticism by speaking with the press is within the scope of defendants' duties as high-level executive branch official." To which the Fox commentor did a bit of a "I told you so" monologue.

Then I just read an article on the ruling on CNN's web site. Unlike the Fox version, CNN provided a little more in the way of quotes (but not obviously the full 41-page decision). Interestingly, the flavor of the CNN piece could easily lead to somewhat different interpretation of the judge's statements. For example, here is what CNN quotes relative to the Fox quote:

[ The way the defendants handled criticism from Joseph Wilson "may have been highly unsavory," the judge wrote, but "there can be no serious dispute that the act of rebutting public criticism ... by speaking with members of the press is within the scope of defendants' duties as high-level executive branch officials." ]

Furthermore, earlier in CNN's piece they quote another part of the judge's opinion:

[U.S. District Judge John Bates said the lawsuit raises "important questions relating to the propriety of actions undertaken by our highest government officials." ] me this looks like the judge is saying that even though Plame and Wilson didn't have a legitimate case against the President et al., he did have serious concerns about the actions taken by them against Plame/Wilson. Now I think most legal scholars believed that the case would not move forward. In fact, I think it likely that Plame/Wilson always assumed their suit didn't have enough meat to enable a judgment in their favor, but rather filed so as to cause as much political angst as retribution for their own loss of reputation/status. So having the case tossed isn't really that much of a surprise (though apparently they plan to appeal). But what is interesting is the selective reporting aspect of the case. Am I alone in expecting news organizations to evaluate the information and present an accurate representation of the facts? And I don't mean "fair and balanced" where one side yells at the other side and no one actually gets the real facts so we can make up our own minds.