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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Big Gun Fight at the WaPo Corral


It's Pincus and the rest of the WaPo versus Big Ego Bob Woodward. And I think it's going to get uglier before we know the whole scoop -- both about what the THREE Administration folks said to Woodward, and what Woodward did or didn't do in speaking with folks at his paper -- or in not speaking at all.

Citing a confidentiality agreement in which the source freed Woodward to testify but would not allow him to discuss their conversations publicly, Woodward and Post editors refused to disclose the official's name or provide crucial details about the testimony. Woodward did not share the information with Washington Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. until last month, and the only Post reporter whom Woodward said he remembers telling in the summer of 2003 does not recall the conversation taking place.
Well, you can just feel the glow of all the love in that paragraph, can't you? Wonder how Woodward's peeps at the WaPo are feeling? Well, I'd say the "tribe" is about as cheery as MoDo was a few weeks ago. Nothing like a rampant ego making the whole newsroom look like a clueless bunch of ignoramuses to stoke the friendship fires?
Downie said The Post waited until late yesterday to disclose Woodward's deposition in the case in hopes of persuading his sources to allow him to speak publicly. Woodward declined to elaborate on the statement he released to The Post late yesterday afternoon and publicly last night. He would not answer any questions, including those not governed by his confidentiality agreement with sources.
Ah, Judy. You sure set a good standard, didn't you? Poor Downie and company were left to try and pick up the journalistic pieces, and salvage something of face at the back end -- with a colleague who has been sitting on a big scoop since June of 2003 because...well, why exactly? Only Woodward knows the answer to that one, and he's hiding behind his ego.

But it is the pissing match with Pincus that is interesting me most in all of this. Walter Pincus is known to be a fairly meticulous kind of guy -- a reporter with a good mind for miniscule detail. Don't take my word for it, Steve Clemons says the same thing in the Washington Note (here Clemons is quoting the WaPo article).
Woodward has apparently testified that he passed on what he knew to Washington Post reporter Walter Pincus, who denies this. I happen to know Pincus -- and this veteran reporter is meticulous with detail. From the report today:

"Woodward's statement said he testified: "I told Walter Pincus, a reporter at The Post, without naming my source, that I understood Wilson's wife worked at the CIA as a WMD analyst."
Pincus said he does not recall Woodward telling him that. In an interview, Pincus said he cannot imagine he would have forgotten such a conversation around the same time he was writing about Wilson.

"Are you kidding?" Pincus said. "I certainly would have remembered that."

Pincus said Woodward may be confused about the timing and the exact nature of the conversation. He said he remembers Woodward making a vague mention to him in October 2003. That month, Pincus had written a story explaining how an administration source had contacted him about Wilson. He recalled Woodward telling him that Pincus was not the only person who had been contacted."
Clemons has a lot more on the journalistic ethics questions (or the lack thereof, depending on your perspective I suppose), and this is worth a read.

No idea how much more information is going to be leaking out over the coming days. I suspect quite a bit. But one thing is for certain from my read of things: there are an awful lot of reporters at the WaPo who aren't happy with Big Ego Bob.

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