Should Novak get the ax?

The conservative pundit's Op-Ed page colleagues opine on his transgressions and his future.

By T.g.
August 11, 2005 9:28PM (UTC)
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Sid Blumenthal has some strong words to say about Bob Novak in Salon today, and he's certainly not alone. We noted earlier this week that the Denver Post is saying that it's time for Novak to come clean in the Valerie Plame case, and now some other opinion-page worthies are telling Editor & Publisher that they have similar views.

Now that Novak has broken his silence on the Plame case in a selective and self-serving way, conservative columnist Cal Thomas says it's time for him to tell all. "You can't be a 'partial virgin,'" Thomas tells E&P. "Now that he has spoken about one aspect of the case, he should talk about the rest of it." From the left, Richard Reeves agrees. "Unless there's some terrible secret that would hurt Robert Novak more than the credibility he has lost, I would think he should write about this," Reeves says, adding that he'd cancel Novak's column if he were an editor whose paper runs it now. "He's hurting the press," Reeves says.


Not everyone has the same view, of course. Editorial page editors from the San Diego Union-Tribune and the New Hampshire Union Leader -- both of which run Novak's column -- tell E&P that the decision to tell more is for Novak and his lawyer to make. And Kansas City Star columnist Bill Tammeus says that a decision to drop a columnist should not be made based "on a single column or a single incident involving the columnist but, rather, on a whole host of considerations, including the columnist's history of accuracy and reader appeal."

Fair enough, but even by that standard, isn't there good cause to dump Novak's column? We can't speak to the question of Novak's appeal among readers, but we do know that his history of accuracy, at least of late, isn't all that impressive: It was Novak, after all, who had the nation on tenterhooks last month with a report that William Rehnquist was going to retire during the first full week of July.

And there's more than just the question of accuracy. As Creators Syndicate columnist Norman Solomon tells E&P: "If I were an op-ed editor, I wouldn't run Novak's column -- not because he's conservative or because of the Plame incident, but because truth-in-packing would require a cumbersome notice to readers that the columnist's work has been an integral part of the Republican Party's media-spin apparatus."



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