August 5, 2005

After CNN outburst, Novak told to take a break

By Paul J. Gough

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - CNN took veteran political
columnist Robert Novak off the air late Thursday after he
uttered an expletive and walked off the set of "Inside
Politics" while it was still on the air.

Novak's outburst happened 10 minutes before the end of the
show in the midst of an exchange among Novak, fellow analyst
James Carville and "Inside Politics" anchor Ed Henry. 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, a Democrat, said of his political rival.
"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
Friday to make way for CNN's "The Situation Room," the
network's new three-hour, late-afternoon news show.

CNN declined further comment; Novak and 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 he has
refused to discuss the matter publicly. That 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