In which I lose my cool while debunking right wing Libby myths at the White House press briefing

Today at the White House press briefing, I got into a somewhat heated (on my part) dispute with John Gizzi, political editor of the right wing web magazine It happened like this…

Earlier in the briefing, the press was asking Tony Snow some pretty good questions about Bush’s commutation yesterday of Scooter Libby’s prison sentence. Questions like (this is a paraphrase): “What is it about this particular case that makes it so special that the president commuted the sentence without Libby even petitioning for a commutation, when there are 3,000 actual requests for commutation currently languishing at the Justice Department?” Tony’s (paraphrased) answer: “This case is just really, really special.” However, I was puzzled that all the reporters were referring only to Libby’s perjury convictions, and not to his conviction for obstruction of justice. So when Tony called on me, I asked:

Won’t this encourage other members of his administration to obstruct justice?”

Tony’s response:


I got another chance, though, later on, during the following exchange:

Reporter: But is even one day in prison excessive for this kind of a crime, when people have spent time in prison…

Tony: This crime. Not this kind of crime, but this crime.

Reporter: Why not some jail time served?

Tony: Tell me why.

Reporter: I’m asking you.

Me: To deter future obstruction of justice. He was convicted of obstruction of justice.

Another reporter: For lying.

Gizzi: (sitting next to me) He was convicted of perjury.

Me: (appealing to the audience) Am I right? He was convicted of obstruction of justice!

Other reporters: (silence)

Gizzi: Perjury.

I had a little more back and forth with Gizzi in private. He said he was sure that Libby had not been convicted of obstruction of justice. I didn’t know yet who he was, and when I looked at his press badge to get his name, Gizzi gave me his card. I’ve just emailed him this link from, you guessed it,

As I left the White House, two members of the Pink Police were standing on the sidewalk outside the gate, shouting into bullhorns:

Georgie Porgie’s soft on crime.
Scooter Libby should be doing time.


For he’s a jolly good felon,
For he’s a jolly good felon…

Update: Here’s the White House transcript for the above exchange. My lines are in bold:

Q One day is too much for this particular crime?

MR. SNOW: The President decided that it was too much for this one.

Q Why not some jail time served, as was —

MR. SNOW: Tell me why.

Q I’m asking you.

MR. SNOW: No, it sounds to me like —

Q — obstruction of justice, is why —

MR. SNOW: You don’t think —

Q — convicted of obstruction of justice.

Q For lying, perjury.

Q Perjury.

Q He was convicted of — am I right? He was convicted of obstruction of justice.

Q He was convicted of perjury. He lied about leaking.

MR. SNOW: — running high in the press room today.

14 thoughts on “In which I lose my cool while debunking right wing Libby myths at the White House press briefing”

  1. Thanks!! A dozen more like yourself in the press-room and maybe we’d start getting some answers to some real questions. Keep them on their toes!!

  2. I posted about this over at Glenn Greenwald’s Salon pad, for when I saw the clips of the presser at C&L I was just astonished that you did what you did. The whole room, including Tony Snow, fell silent, and as I suspected, it was the first time (or nearly so, if we count your earlier mention of it) they’d heard about that conviction. It was hilarious to hear them try to correct you! And Tony? Just a dead stop.

    So, I say “keep it up.” They cannot — apparently — handle the obstruction conviction.

    Say it loud!

  3. From the NY Times last March.
    “The jury rejected Mr. Libby’s claims of memory lapses as it convicted him of four felony counts: obstruction of justice, giving false statements to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and committing perjury twice before the grand jury. The 11-member jury acquitted Mr. Libby on an additional count of making false statements to the F.B.I.”
    So, he was convicted of perjury, but he was also convicted of obstruction of justice as Patrick Buchanan suggests in your link.

  4. Good God, that’s depressing, Eric (kudos to you, though!): the entire WH press corpse (yourself excepted!) is ignorant of what Scooter was convicted of. If there’s a snapshot of what has gone so terribly wrong with our media in their abdication of 4th Estate duty (again, yourself excepted!), this would be it.

    I seriously wonder if there can be any long-term hope for restoration of our democracy (dependent, as ever, on informed consent of the governed) given such media laziness/incompetence (not you, though!).

    Were you just flatout flabbergasted when press “colleagues” disputed the obstruction of justice conviction? I still can’t believe what I just read.

  5. So perjury is somehow “better” than obstruction of justice in their minds? Interesting. I wonder if we can sit a bunch of them down and get them to rate different felonies on a scale of one to ten in terms of severity…

  6. Given the depths Tony Snow has sunk to, why doesn’t the White House press corps simply boycott the daily travesty? It’s clear that nothing of substance will be elicited beyond talking points available at drudge. The briefings are totally without any news content. Why bother?

  7. Hi Eric,

    I’m very impressed! You’re a better reporter than anyone in the mainstream press!

    We’re proud of you!


  8. Thank you. We will be adding your site to our bookmarked important daily reads.

  9. Jeez Eric-you better be careful,going off script like that and confusing everyone.

  10. Thank you! I saw the Crooks and Liars clip earlier today and thought it should go down in history along with Ron Ziglar’s “that answer is now inoperative” press conference.

    When Snow insisted on making this crime different from ‘this kind of crime’, it illustrated how deep the cronyism goes in this administration.
    It’s o.k. for this crime to go unpunished because of who committed it.

    Justice is dead in this country until we get rid of this administration.

  11. Huh! What a simple strategy. And it could be effective, too, if everyone did it.

    Declare the truth in no uncertain terms. Keep hammering it home. The truth is our friend – why are so many so reluctant to rely on it?


  12. You should have taken bets: “Fifty bucks says he was convicted of obstruction of justice.” People engage their brains when they have to get their wallet out.

  13. Too bad you weren’t around when the President claimed that the reason we had to go to war was because Saddam wouldn’t let inspectors into Iraq.

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