Somebody's feeling the heat...
How else to explain the widely-off-the-mark responses from NBC's PR department in Lloyd Grove's column to our reporting on Russert's multitude of journalistic ethical conflicts.
Instead of dealing with the charges head on, the media giant and its Washington bureau chief Tim Russert have astonishingly decided to get down and dirty, dredging up and faxing to at least one reporter a 12-year-old false claim that I hired a private detective to snoop on Russert's wife Maureen Orth while she was preparing a hit piece on me for Vanity Fair in 1994.
I've denied this ludicrous charge, put forward without a shred of evidence many times before -- including directly to Russert during the '96 GOP convention in San Diego. But that's not the point. The point is that instead of addressing the issue of his failure to come clean with his audience on a host of ethical questions, Russert has turned the NBC publicity machine into a vehicle for sleaze and rumor-mongering.
How can one of the major news organizations in the world condone this abysmal behavior? Doesn't NBC News have ethical guidelines when it comes to this kind of thing? (And incidentally, why does NBC News refuse to publish its ethical guidelines, claiming that they are an internal document?)
Look, I know NBC News and Russert would much prefer to debate hoary charges against me rather than the real issues at hand. So let me remind them what those issues are.
Russert refuses to come clean with his audience about his role in Plamegate. He is a participant. He was interviewed under oath by Fitzgerald. But he continued to report on Plamegate as if he were a disinterested observer rather than a major player. And he still refuses to come clean and explain why he fought to keep from testifying in front of the Plamegate grand jury about his fateful chat with Scooter Libby -- even after Libby signed a waiver allowing him to do so.
Plamegate is the perfect segue to another unanswered question. How can someone with these ethical issues go and speak on ethics in the media, as Russert is about to do at Ripon College in Wisconsin next Thursday? And why is NBC refusing to disclose what his speaking fee is?
Russert's latest ethical lapse is his unseemly use of Meet the Press to promote James Carville's new XM radio sports show while refusing to come clean about the fact that Carville's co-host is Russert's college-age son, Luke.
NBC News' diversionary strategy might have worked in the days before blogs started holding the MSM's feet to the fire. But not anymore. One thing is for sure: the Huffington Post and many others in the blogosphere will keep asking the questions Tim Russert doesn't want to answer.