Blitzed


Geraldine Sealey
April 1, 2004 3:38AM (UTC)

So, yesterday, we wrote a bit about a nugget tucked into Paul Krugman's latest column. Krugman noted that CNN's Wolf Blitzer reported on the air that unnamed White House officials, lashing out against former counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke, said Clarke just "wants to make a few bucks, and that [in] his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well." That comment got Krugman to thinking that maybe some White House officials were trying to smear Clarke in a personal way, having already disparaged his professional credibility and character.

Blitzer has since clarified his remark about Clarke. Here's a transcript, via the Daily Howler.

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"BLITZER: I was not referring to anything charged by so-called unnamed White House officials as alleged today by New York Times columnist Paul Krugman. I was simply seeking to flesh out what Bush National Security Council spokesman Jim Wilkinson had said on this program two days earlier."

"WILKINSON (videotape): Let me also point something. If you look in this book, you find interesting things such as reported in the Washington Post this morning. He's talking about how he sits back and visualizes chanting by bin Laden and how bin Laden has some sort of mind control over U.S. officials. This is sort of X-Files stuff. And what I'd say is, this is a man who was in charge of terrorism, Wolf, who was supposed to be focused on that. And he was focused on meetings."

Now, if you were Wolf Blitzer, would you turn this remark into a vague question two days later about how officials were saying Clarke had a weird personal life? Also, at the very least, as Bob Somerby points out on the Howler, Blitzer misleads his audience about Krugman, saying the columnist "alleged" Blitzer made this remark. Krugman's citation comes straight from the CNN transcript from last Wednesday. Here it is again:

"BLITZER (question to reporter John King, Wednesday, 3/24/04): What administration officials have been saying since the weekend, basically that Richard Clarke from their vantage point was a disgruntled former government official, angry because he didn't get a certain promotion. He's got a hot new book out now that he wants to promote. He wants to make a few bucks, and that his own personal life, they're also suggesting that there are some weird aspects in his life as well, that they don't know what made this guy come forward and make these accusations against the president. Is that the sense that you're getting, speaking to a wide range of officials?"

For the record, King said no, he had heard nothing of the sort. Somerby concludes: "So Blitzer dissembled about Paul Krugman. Beyond that, it's conceivable that Blitzer was referring to Wilkinson in his question to King. In truth, it seems like a bit of a stretch. But yes, it's always conceivable. But let's get to the larger question, the one Blitzer's comment raised. Are Bush types sliming Clarke's personal life? Last night, Ann Coulter slithered into Scarborough Country. As usual, she crawled through the mire:

"COULTER: I think Condoleezza Rice was probably chomping at the bit, wondering why this angry, embittered, strange man with no personal life was in this misogynistic snit with her, for the only woman he worked for, I might add."

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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