'This Is a Power Move'

J$P Instant Transcript! Eric Burns and the News Watch panel take on Time magazine, the Supreme Court, and confidential sources.

From Fox News Watch, July 2 2005:

ERIC BURNS [FOX NEWS]: The Supreme Court has refused to help a couple of journalists who wanted to protect their sources....Time decided to fess up, announcing on Thursday that it will hand over [Matt] Cooper's notes. Should it?

JANE HALL [AMERICAN UNIVERSITY]: Well, I'm not sure. I think I was somewhat persuaded by Norman Pearlstine's argument that nobody should be above the law, that Richard Nixon had to ultimately turn over tapes--

BURNS: And he said we have to behave the way ordinary citizens do.

HALL: --and we have to behave--right. The New York Times has said that they are deeply disappointed, and I think that Time made the decision on a more corporate level, and I think that may be the difference between the two.

BURNS: What does that mean, corporate level? It means you think they made it for business reasons as opposed to journalistic reasons?

HALL: Well, as the institution--well, no, I'm not implying that, although I think a lot of people are questioning that. Pearlstine said he made the decision based on Time Inc, and Matt Cooper did not want them to do that. The New York Times is saying, we are backing our reporter to the hilt.

CAL THOMAS [COLUMNIST]: The delicious irony in this, if I may suppress a smirk which I feel coming over me, is that the very people now who have been victimized by this were the perpetrators of the idea that there should be a special counsel. And they got Patrick Fitzgerald, who in my judgment has gone against precedent and the interests of the First Amendment, and come down hard on the media in a way that will affect future cases. This has opened a Pandora's Box for sources; it's going to hurt journalism, it's going to hurt the First Amendment, it's going to hurt our country. But these people brought it on themselves through their arrogance.

BURNS: I don't see how you can defend keeping sources secret, Neal, in this case, for a story that not only gave people information they didn't need, but hurt the career of a CIA agent who can't be covert any more. On what grounds do you withhold that information?

NEAL GABLER [MEDIA WRITER]: Well, I don't want to get into the particulars of this case because it's so complicated. But I disagree with Cal. I don't think this has opened a Pandora's Box, and I do agree with you. It seems to me in Bransburg Case in 1972, the Supreme Court ruled that there is no absolute privilege for the press to protect their sources. And in a concurrence that's very, very important by Justice Powell, he said look, this is a balancing act. You have to balance the right of the free flow of information to the public against the rights of a prosecutor, a defense, a plaintiff in a civil case, to get information.

BURNS: Which is to say, things should be case by case.

GABLER: Exactly. And in this case, I think you can make the case that they should have released this information. On the other hand, I would make this distinction. It's one thing for Time to give this material. It's another thing for the reporters to say we're not going to give the material. Now that may seem like splitting hairs, but I can see how reporters would say lookit, we do not want to give up our sources. It's going to have a chilling effect if we do.

JIM PINKERTON [COLUMNIST]: I don't think this is a balancing act. I think this is a power move. I think that conservatives and those other libertarians who are critical of the mainstream media ought to realize that now we're starting to see the fist of the government against the media. In the great power struggle between the First Estate and the Fourth Estate, the First Estate, which is the government, is winning. They have divided and conquered the media. They've split Time and the New York Times. They split Matt Cooper from his own management on this. And they have had a vast and cruel chilling effect on free speech. And in terms of larger issues here, I'm just reminded of what John Milton, the poet of Paradise Lost, wrote in 1644. He said it's only through confronting mistruths and untruth that we find the truth. And the government now has put the big hammer on free expression and challenging government power.

BURNS: You, then, disagree with me that the free expression in this case did no positive good and simply hurt a woman's career?

PINKERTON: I think this is a runaway prosecutor who is out to kill the First Amendment.

HALL: I completely agree with Jim. I think the First Amendment and journalists need to do a public relations campaign explaining why we need the First Amendment. You need--people--

BURNS: The First Amendment does not protect sources.

GABLER: Not in a criminal case it doesn't, and this is a criminal case.

HALL: But, OK, first of all, this is a--I agree, without arguing the rest of the case, this is a fishing expedition by a man who hasn't built a case except going after these two reporters. And you're right, there's a terrible irony in that Democrats wanted this special prosecutor. I think the bigger question is, I really believe that the media need to explain themselves better. That they're not in this to be specially privileged. The idea is that we need the media to help people come forward with information that is valid. This happened to be lousy information, this is lousy information, and the other thing--

BURNS: Information, that in this case, was lousy information. And so the ruling was: in this case.

HALL: --but it's going to be used, they are already other cases already out there.

BURNS: So we should have had the wrong ruling here to help in future cases?

HALL: Right, exactly.

PINKERTON: It wasn't lousy information. It was true information. Somebody from the White House leaked this story; Matt Cooper and Judith Miller printed it.

HALL: They didn't print it; Judith Miller didn't even--

BURNS: It's lousy information because the information served no public good and it hurt this woman's career.

PINKERTON: That is not the way truth works. Truth is not judged by whether it serves the public good or not. Truth is truth, period.

HALL: The other thing--

BURNS: And if it hurts somebody and has no constructive purpose--

PINKERTON: That's the First Amendment process.

HALL: But the guy is, wait a minute--

GABLER: The First Amendment is limited when you are dealing with crime, and this is a criminal action.

HALL: We don't even know if a crime was committed.

THOMAS: Here's the big question that nobody is really asking: where is Robert Novak in all of this, the syndicated columnist who broke all of this?

BURNS: Exactly.

THOMAS: Did he cut a deal with the Grand Jury? Did he cut a deal with the special prosecutor? All he'd have to do is speak up. He says, presumably he's going to write a column about it sometime. And Bill Safire back in the New York Times on the Op-Ed page this week said that he owes that to his readers and to the country.

BURNS: I think Novak ought to write a book about it, because you get bigger advances for a book.

THOMAS: That's right.

GABLER: I think we also should say that Sen Dodd has introduced a bill in Congress protecting privilege, essentially codifying the Powell concurrence in Bransburg. And now the issue is going to be, who is a journalist?

THOMAS: There you go.

GABLER: Is a blogger a journalist?

HALL: One other thing that's not mentioned usually is that the state attorney generals wanted the Supreme Court to consider this. 49 states have shield laws for journalists. This is not journalists making this up for their own good.

PINKERTON: One last point. Time magazine, Time/Warner, CNN, that whole corporate conglomerate is a bunch of weenies. They should have stuck to their guns like the New York Times did.

BURNS: Well, I disagree, but it's your last word. No, actually that was mine, wasn't it? Sorry I got that wrong, Jim.

posted: Sat - July 2, 2005 at 07:52 PM       j$p  send 

The Plame/Rove non-story is kicking up a fuss at Newshounds. When a poster who called himself "the reasonable man" pointed out several fallacies in Ellen's most recent post (even causing Ellen to grudgingly make a correction), she replied:
"Reasonable Man with a writing style so similar to the oft-banned Johnny Dollar..."
I think you have them paranoid.
July 3, 2005, 8:08:47 PM EDT – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
Really? I gotta check that out!
July 3, 2005, 8:43:34 PM EDT – Like – Reply

Oh yeah they were rabid over that last night, so typical of them.
I about choked on my breakfast the other day when I read a comment saying how nice and polite and friendly they are and how they never make personal attacks. I'm scared to think what he considers mean...
July 3, 2005, 10:44:23 PM EDT – Like – Reply

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Newsweek magazine is reporting that e-mails between Time magazine reporter Matt Cooper and his editors show that Karl Rove, President Bush's top political adviser, spoke to Cooper in the days before a CIA operative's identity was revealed in the media, but it wasn't clear what Cooper and Rove discussed.
I think the newshounds owe Karl Rove an apology.
July 3, 2005, 11:03:34 PM EDT – Like – Reply

Good catch Mike!! The 'hounds aren't much for giving out apologies though. Awfully good at demanding them from others, but when the shoe is on the other foot... not so much.
July 3, 2005, 11:14:56 PM EDT – Like – Reply

More Newshounds "reasoning": 
I never said that Rove was the leaker. I said he was implicated in the outing. The very fact that he has a lawyer denying that he *is* the leaker says to me that he is newsworthy. Fox's silence is just as telling.
- Posted by: Ellen at July 3, 2005 10:29 PM
July 3, 2005, 11:17:10 PM EDT – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
"I never said that Rove was the leaker."
But they have a headline up in bold print that sez:
"Karl Rove source of Plame leak"
And they just bumped it up to keep it at the top of the page.
So which is it?!?
July 3, 2005, 11:22:44 PM EDT – Like – Reply

Wow, fuzzy logic anyone??
Meanwhile, did anyone see a story over there a little bit ago claiming that News Corp. owns Vodafone and Brian Wilson neglected to disclose this fact in a story about Scanbuy (a partner with Vodafone in some endeavors) on today's Weekend Live? I was looking to see where they got the info that News Corp. owns Vodafone (I couldn't find any) and when I just went back to the 'hounds the story is completely gone. I don't think I just imagined the story...
July 3, 2005, 11:23:45 PM EDT – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
Oh yes, we saw that. And saved it. You can still find it here:
I have a funny feeling it's going to disasppear into the ether very soon.
NewsCorp owns Vodafone? Har. That will come as news to the Vodafone people.
July 3, 2005, 11:28:13 PM EDT – Like – Reply

Well Ellen may have changed her post, or said Rove was "implicated" but Chrish flat out names Rove as the leaker. So yeah, either way ONE of the 'hounds owes Rove an apology.
July 3, 2005, 11:29:53 PM EDT – Like – Reply

HA thank you johnny!! I KNEW I had seen it. LMAO on the comment after reasonable man pointed out the error:
reasonable man -
I found it listed on a website that News Corps owns Vivendi as one of its European holdings.
I'm double-checking my facts.
I may have made a mistake. Will delete post and apologize to FOX if I find out I'm wrong.
Posted by: Marie Therese at July 3, 2005 11:08 PM
FOX, don't hold your breath for that apology...
July 3, 2005, 11:31:22 PM EDT – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
And for that matter, what in the Wide World of Sports does VIVENDI have to do with it? They were talking about VODAPHONE!!!
I think it's time for their distemper shots.
July 3, 2005, 11:39:11 PM EDT – Like – Reply

LOL I know. They don't even have the same number of letters in their names. WOW once they get on a roll of making stuff up they just can't stop themselves, can they??
July 3, 2005, 11:42:00 PM EDT – Like – Reply

Marie Therese
You can read my correction by going to 
Or here it is in toto, including the update to show the connection between Vivendi and Vodafone.
i have also notified the one site that issued a trackback to the post to delete it from their website.
Marie Therese
Oh, well, no one's perfect. For those of you who read my post earlier today claiming that News Corps owned Vivendi, it was an error. I used a financial information website that appeared to list Vivendi Universal, owner fo Vodafone, as a holding of News Corps. However, a nagging little voice told me to double-check (and so did one of our observant readers). Turns out, not being versed in how to read financial websites, I misinterpreted the information on the site. Therefore, I've deleted the post (and the comments) and apologize to our readers and to FOX News for the mistake.
Reported by Marie Therese at July 3, 2005 09:50 PM
July 4, 2005, 8:44:28 PM EDT – Like – Reply

johnny dollar
M-T, I appreciate your letting us know about your correction--although it really would make more sense in the comments to my article on that subject rather than this transcript posting. But leaving that aside--
It's fine to apologize to your "readers and to FOX News" for the mistake, but your apology is almost a non-apology. Just thinking that Vodafone is owned by News Corp would not be an apology-worthy mistake. What should be apologized for is your implication that Brian Wilson was engaged in some sort of unethical promotion on behalf of a Fox company and didn't disclose the connection to the viewers.
There WAS no connection. It's fine that you admit you made a mistake about Vodafone (or Vivendi--I still don't understand how THEY got in there) but what you should admit and apologize for is smearing Brian Wilson.
July 4, 2005, 9:28:14 PM EDT – Like – Reply