no questions novak

NO QUESTIONS NOVAK….My two cents on Novak: It’s really impossible to overstate the extent to which Novak has been coddled and protected for decades by the perfect set-up. He answers to no one–not to an editor (his column is syndicated–if papers don’t like it, all they can do is drop it), not to a producer (he executive-produced his own shows), and certainly not to fellow journalists who have, out of a misguided sense of collegiality and friendship, avoided asking him tough questions.

With very few exceptions, Novak has not only refused to answer questions about the Plame affair–he has threatened to immediately terminate any interview in which such questions are raised. That was the ground rule for my interview with him last fall, and I’m almost certain (although I could never get anyone at CNN to confirm it for me) that he threatened to walk off the set if anyone at the network asked him about Plame. The absurdity of that arrangement finally became too much for the network a few weeks ago, as the spotlight on this case heated up, and he has since grudgingly tolerated some queries on-air.

It’s not just that Novak doesn’t want to answer questions; what’s clear is that he doesn’t think he should have to. The comparison that keeps coming to my mind is with Jack Nicholson’s Colonel Jessup in A Few Good Men. “You need me on that wall. You want me on that wall. And you can’t handle it if I have to out a few CIA agents now and then.”

My interview with Novak from our December 2004 issue, as well as an explanation of how he created his own ethics-free zone, and a theory about why the Washington press corps handles him with kid gloves can be found here.