Eight months ago, in its December 2004 issue, the Washington Monthly printed a lengthy profile of Bob Novak by Amy Sullivan. This morning, Salon printed a lengthy profile of Bob Novak by Sidney Blumenthal. There were some striking similarities between the two.
The Salon piece does include a link to the Washington Monthly piece, and Blumenthal attributes one quote to Sullivan’s work. The attribution and link were not included in the original piece, but were added sometime after. Contacted for comment, Blumenthal said, “they’re different pieces. Well, it’s the same subject. Mine is an original piece. It has original insights and writing, and I’ve credited [Sullivan] for her fine work.” He added, “the trajectory of [Novak’s] career is what it is.”
Sullivan also responded to a request for comment. “I have enormous respect for Sidney Blumenthal as a reporter and writer. It’s flattering that he found my profile of Novak so helpful, and I’m glad he decided to add a reference to the piece in his article,” she said. “Totally separate from this case, though, there are examples all the time of journalists borrowing from each other without attribution. And we need to have a professional norm in this business that says that’s just not cool.”
Below, excerpts from the two pieces.
Swiveling in his chair, Novak went on the attack — “It looks like the ambassador [Wilson] really doesn’t know who leaked this to me”—punching back against the challenges of his guest, Rep. Harold Ford (D-Tenn.) — “Do you know whether my source was in the White House? Do you know that at all?”— even though Novak was one of two people on earth who knew for sure the identity of the leaker. Novak also disputed the Newsday account, asserting that “nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this.”
Two days later, Novak went further, devoting his Wednesday column to the issue and then submitting to an interview with CNN colleague Wolf Blitzer. Novak assailed criticism of the White House leak and his column, telling Blitzer, with no apparent sense of irony that, “this kind of scandal … is Washington at its worst.” That Saturday, “The Capital Gang” turned to the subject for the first few minutes of its program, but Novak’s only comment was to defend his source as someone who is “not a partisan gun-slinger.” And on Sunday, Novak spoke his last public words about the incident.
Then, on Sept. 29, 2003, the day the criminal investigation was formally announced, Novak declared on CNN, “Nobody in the Bush administration called me to leak this.” Swiveling back and forth in his chair, he engaged in a show of bravado. “It looks like the ambassador [Wilson] really doesn’t know who leaked this to me,” he said. He turned to a guest on the show, Rep. Harold Ford of Tennessee, and asked, “Do you know whether my source was in the White House? Do you know that at all?”
Two days later, back on CNN, Novak decried the investigation. “This kind of scandal … is Washington at its worst,” he said. Three days after that, he appeared again on CNN to defend his source as someone who “is not a partisan gunslinger.” Then he fell into radio silence, declining to answer questions, on his counsel’s advice.
At this stage in his career, Novak is more than a reporter — he’s a small business. He peddles his wares with the help of a team of researchers based at “Crossfire,” “The Capital Gang,” and the warren of offices in which we’re sitting. Novak’s thrice-weekly column is syndicated to more than 300 newspapers — including the Washington Post — making him one of the top five most-read columnists in the country. His scowling visage appears on television at least half a dozen times during an average week — he’s a marquee name at CNN, where he headlines “Crossfire” and “The Capital Gang,” acts as an analyst for “Inside Politics,” and conducts interviews for “The Novak Zone,” a feature on the Saturday morning news. He also pops up on NBC’s “Meet the Press” as a frequent guest. On top of everything else, he still writes the bi-weekly political newsletter he and Rowland Evans started in 1967, the “Evans-Novak Political Report,” which has a remarkable record of accurate election predictions.