COMMENTS: Spy Comes in from the Cold

The spy whose secret job was used as a weapon in the inside-the-Beltway spin zone went public. Valerie Plame, wife of diplomat and Vice-Presidential bete noire Joseph Wilson, appeared on Capitol Hill to castigate the White Hosue and State Department for recklessly blowing her cover. Plame's testimony was NBC's lead--ABC led with a late winter storm; CBS with the latest twist in the firing of those federal prosecutors--and the Story of the Day.

Plame represented the only story that warranted assignment by a correspondent on all three networks. But, besides being able to hear her speak for herself four years after attracting ink, there was not much new to report. The coverage consisted mostly of a rehash of the many-times-retold background to the perjury conviction of Lewis Libby, the Vice President's former Chief of Staff.

CBS' Gloria Borger called her "Washington's own mystery woman--notorious and glamorous" and ABC's David Kerley (subscription required) saw "the former spy in designer clothes" enter "to a chorus of clicking cameras." Plame has signed a $1m book deal and will be the subject of a Hollywood movie, Kerley added. Sure, there were human interest tidbits--Plame was the mother of twin toddlers…she did not want her husband to leave for Niger…she votes Democratic…she did not have much seniority in the CIA--but there was little of substance. "She always knew she might be exposed by a foreign enemy," noted NBC's Chip Reid, but no reporter detailed what the actual undercover weapons work was that her own government's loose lips had jeopardized.


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