Magazine article Editor & Publisher

When Robert Novak Backed Giving Up Reporter's Sources

Magazine article Editor & Publisher

When Robert Novak Backed Giving Up Reporter's Sources

Article excerpt

Since the late Robert Novak became known for his stout defense of journalists' refusal to reveal sources -- in the wake of his entanglement in the CIA leak case -- it may surprise some to learn that he applied this principle selectively.

Case in point: the controversy that followed Dan Rather's "60 Minutes" report in September 2004 on President George W. Bush's National Guard record.

Novak, who died yesterday at age 78, apparently believed that the principle of not revealing confidential sources is rather flexible.

He said on national television that CBS should release the name of its source for the documents at the center of the dispute over its recent program.

On the CNN panel show, "Capital Gang," Novak joined the many who expressed grave doubts about the CBS documents, then said: "I'd like CBS, at this point, to say where they got these documents from. They didn't get them from a CIA agent. I don't believe there was any laws involved. I don't think we'll have a special prosecutor, if they tell. …

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