Friday, November 04, 2005

Kristof Re-Visits Key 2003 Column on Joe Wilson's Trip to Niger

Kristof Re-Visits Key 2003 Column on Joe Wilson's Trip to Niger

By E&P Staff

Published: November 03, 2005 11:40 AM ET

NEW YORK After months of complaints from what he calls “bloggers on the right,” among others, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has posted at his paid TimesSelect page a clarification on his now-famous, but somewhat flawed, column that played a central role in the still-enveloping Plame/CIA leak case.

Kristof said the reasons for correcting the record now were that the Libby indictment had revived interest in the May, 6, 2003 column -- and he has been pressing for Vice President Cheney to “tell all” about the case so “here's my effort to do the same.”

It came just hours after Slate's Jack Shafer had penned his own column taking Kristof to task for not dealing with this matter. Kristof told Shafer yesterday that he was considering re-visiting the column, but noted that he couldn't think of an example where a Times column or article was corrected after six months.

In his TimesSelect piece Thursday, Kristof examines two key criticisms of the column.

First, he denies that he stated that the Vice President's office, not the CIA, sent Ambassador Wilson to Niger, only that Cheney wanted an investigation by somebody. But Kristof admits: “In fairness, though, it is true that Cheney apparently didn't know that Wilson had been dispatched. If I'd known that I would have said so.”

Then he turns to the matter of his column reporting that Wilson had actually seen (forged) documents on the uranium deal, when he didn't. Kristof explains: “Wilson has said that he misspoke when he made references to the documents to me and to two other journalists.”

He explains further: “There's also a suggestion from the right that Wilson was wildly spinning me and others and exaggerating how strongly he debunked the deal. The Senate Intelligence Committee Report is very harsh on Wilson, and there's a sense in spookdom that it came down too hard on him and was based on interviews with too few people.

“The C.I.A. seems to have thought that a Niger uranium deal was conceivable but not very likely, while at State the intelligence bureau (INR) was sure that it never happened. But it does seem to be true that Wilson claims to have debunked the Niger deal more firmly than some people remember him debunking it.”

But Kristof also offers this more positive overall assessment of Wilson: “I think that the attacks on Wilson are overdone. ... More generally, I find the attacks on a private citizen like Wilson rather distasteful. Sure, he injected himself into the public arena with his op-ed column and TV appearances, and so some scrutiny is fair. But I figure it's more important to examine and probe the credibility of, say, the vice president than a retired ambassador.”

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