News Release

Backstory on McClellan’s Falsehoods on Rove


In his new book What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington’s Culture of Deception, former White House spokesperson Scott McClellan writes (page 179):

“I was first asked specifically whether [Karl] Rove had been involved in the leak late in the briefing on September 16, 2003. Russell Mokhiber, editor of the advocacy newsletter Corporate Crime Reporter, a Ralph Nader associate and liberal White House critic, asked a pointed question. It came out of the blue, but that was normal for the gruff Mokhiber, who usually wasn’t interested in the news of the day. He was interested in gotcha reporting, plain and simple, to damage an administration he held in low regard.

“‘On the Robert Novak-Joseph Wilson situation,’ Mokhiber said, ‘Novak reported earlier this year — quoting — anonymous government sources telling him that Wilson’s wife was a CIA operative. Now, this is apparently a federal offense, to burn the cover of a CIA operative. Wilson now believes that the person who did this was Karl Rove. He’s quoted from a speech last month [at an August 21 public forum in suburban Seattle] as saying, “At the end of the day, it’s of keen interest to me to see whether or not we can get Karl Rove frog-marched out of the White House in handcuffs.” Did Karl Rove tell that…’

“I wasn’t prepared for the question in the sense that I had not spoken to Rove about it yet, but it was phrased in such an emotionally off-putting way, referring to Rove deliberately ‘burning the cover’ of a CIA operative, that I confidently interrupted Mokhiber. ‘I haven’t heard that. That’s just totally ridiculous.’ Mokhiber followed up by asking if Rove had disclosed Plame’s name to Novak, and I again said it was ‘totally ridiculous.’ It was the stance I would maintain as the scandal blossomed.”

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Background: Mokhiber’s exchanges with Scott McClellan — “Scottie & Me” — are on the web, as is the precursor page with McClellan’s predecessor as White House spokesperson, Ari Fleischer — “Ari & I.”

On Wednesday, November 17, 2004:

Mokhiber: Kofi Annan in September said that the Iraq war is an illegal war. If it is an illegal war, then the 100,000 who have died there — according to the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health — are victims of war crimes. Now, the President is going to Canada later this year. And the largest circulation newspaper in Canada (the Toronto Star) printed a column yesterday titled “Should Canada Indict Bush?” — raising the question of a war crimes prosecution. They have a war crimes law in Canada. And I’m wondering —

McClellan: Do you have a question or is it just a statement of opinion?

Mokhiber: No, this is the question. Has the White House counsel looked at the President’s legal exposure to a war crimes prosecution?

McClellan: It is a ridiculous question that you bring up. You were out on the Nader campaign at the time that this issue came up. It was addressed at that time. And I’m not going to go through it again.

For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167