August 7, 2005

Novak sorry for outburst, denies link to CIA case

By Paul J. Gough

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Robert Novak apologized
Friday for swearing on the air and walking off a CNN set, but
said it had nothing to do with the federal probe sparked by his
revelation of a CIA officer's name in a 2003 column.

"I apologize for my conduct and I'm sorry I did it," the
conservative commentator said in an interview.

CNN has pulled him off the air indefinitely. Novak said,
"I'll follow their guidance" on when he returns.

"Inside Politics" anchor Ed Henry said afterward that he
had been about to ask Novak about his role in the investigation
of the leak of Valerie Plame's identity, which Novak has
repeatedly refused to comment on aside from some references in
his column.

"That had nothing to do with it, absolutely nothing," Novak
said. "I was sorry he said that."

Novak's outburst happened 10 minutes before the end of the
show in the midst of an exchange among Novak, Henry and liberal
analyst James Carville. They were talking about the possible
Senate candidacy of Florida congresswoman Katherine Harris when
Carville needled Novak and tried to interrupt.

"He's got to show the right-wingers that he's got
backbone," Carville said. "Go ahead, the Wall Street Journal
editorial page is watching. Show them you're tough."

Novak, shown on the screen sitting next to Carville, waved
his right hand and replied: "I think that's bull----, and I
hate that. Just let it go." While Henry addressed another
question to Carville, Novak stood up, walked off the set behind
Carville -- fully visible to viewers -- and apparently pulled
off his microphone. Henry and Carville didn't miss a beat.

"Bob Novak's behavior on CNN today was inexcusable and
unacceptable," a CNN spokeswoman said. "Mr. Novak has
apologized to CNN, and CNN apologizes to its viewers for his
language and actions. We've asked Mr. Novak to take some time

It wasn't clear how long Novak would be off the network,
where he has appeared since 1980. A CNN executive said Thursday
night that it was a mutual decision between CNN and Novak.

In recent months two of Novak's politically oriented shows
-- the weekday "Crossfire" and weekend "The Capital Gang" --
have been canceled. "Inside Politics" will go off the air today
to make way for CNN's "The Situation Room," the network's new
three-hour, late-afternoon news show.

CNN declined further comment; Carville couldn't be reached
for comment.

The veteran political commentator and newspaper columnist
has been under fire in recent months for his role in the
identification of CIA operative Valerie Plame, the wife of
former ambassador and Bush critic Joseph Wilson. Novak's column
identified her, but he hasn't been under the same scrutiny from
the leak investigators that jailed New York Times reporter
Judith Miller and forced Time reporter Matthew Cooper to
testify before a grand jury.

Novak's involvement hasn't been determined, and his refusal
to discuss the matter publicly has drawn criticism from many
quarters, and it was just two weeks ago at the Television
Critics Assn.'s summer press tour that CNN executives said they
backed Novak.

While neither Henry nor Carville acknowledged Novak's
departure in the segment, Henry noted near the end of "Inside
Politics" that the columnist had left the set early.

"I had told him in advance that we were going to ask him
about the CIA leak case," Henry said. "He was not here for me
to able to ask him about that, and hopefully we'll be able to
ask him about that in the future."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter