Sunday, October 30, 2005

NBC reporter was Cheney staffer!!!!

Real-world wisdom from outside the beltway.

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Cheney staffer-turned-reporter now covering Libby indictment for NBC News

Over at the Huffington Post, Dan Carol asks a great question: how can NBC's Pete Williams be allowed to cover the Scooter Libby story for the network, considering Williams was a longtime former staffer for Dick Cheney?

That's right – according to Williams' biography on NBC's website, Williams is "a native of Casper, Wyoming" – where Cheney is from. In 1986, Williams "joined the Washington, DC staff of then Congressman Dick Cheney as press secretary and a legislative assistant. In 1989, when Cheney was named Assistant Secretary of Defense, Williams was appointed Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs."

Now Williams is being allowed to report on the indictment of Cheney's chief of staff for NBC News, as if he was just a regular old nonpartisan objective journalist. And, as Carol points out, Williams seems to be using his position on TV in some pretty questionable ways when it comes to the case.

UPDATE: I received a hysterical, breathless email from a well-known NBC reporter complaining about the fact that I raised questions about Williams' objectivity. He whined that I am overlooking "14 years of spotless, impartial work for NBC News" by Williams. But as I told him, here's the deal: Dick Cheney's former longtime flack is reporting for NBC on a scandal surrounding Dick Cheney. If you can't see the conflict there...well, then the media really has bigger problems than even I had originally thought.

Regardless of Williams' previous reporting (which has been fine), this is about as blatant a conflict-of-interest as you can get. It's one thing for him to be reporting on the Bush administration in general, despite being a former Republican flack. But it is quite another for him to be reporting directly on a scandal surrounding his longtime former boss. It's right out of Journalism 101 in terms of what not to allow. Period.

Not only has Dan Carol raised questions about it, but so has the New York Times, and plenty of others. The media is quick to demand politicians recuse themselves from any situation that even appears to look like a conflict of interest. But when the public asks the same of the media - surprise surprise - the media goes and cries. Pathetic.

Posted by David Sirota at 10:28 AM


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