CNN Suspends Novak for ‘Inexcusable’ Outburst

Times Staff Writer

CNN suspended contributor and conservative columnist Robert Novak on Thursday after he cursed and stormed off a live studio telecast of the cable network’s program “Inside Politics.” In suspending Novak, the network called his on-air actions “inexcusable.”

It was the latest controversy for Novak. He has been under fire for his role in the scandal surrounding the disclosure of the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, wife of former U.S. Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. Aug. 6, 2005 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday August 06, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 38 words Type of Material: Correction
Robert Novak -- An article and caption in Friday’s Section A about CNN’s suspension of contributor Robert Novak said he had been associated with the cable network for 15 years. Novak has been with CNN for 25 years.

CNN officials had previously defended their decision to keep Novak on the air during the investigation.

On Thursday, Novak was debating longtime Democratic strategist James Carville about the political viability of Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla.), given her role in the 2000 Florida vote recount.


At one point, Carville teased Novak. “He’s got to show these right-wingers that he’s got a backbone, you know,” Carville said of Novak. “It’s why the Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show them that you’re tough.”

Novak replied: “Well, I think that’s [expletive]. And I hate that. Just let it go.” The profanity was clearly audible.

The syndicated columnist, who has served as a contributor to CNN for 15 years and formerly co-anchored the debate program “Crossfire,” appeared ready to continue the discussion. But after another moment he rose from his chair, removed his microphone and walked off the set.

Ed Henry, the anchor of “Inside Politics,” continued talking to Carville, but later told viewers that Novak had left before he could ask him about the CIA leak case. Novak has said little publicly on the issue, citing an ongoing investigation.

In a statement, CNN said: “Bob Novak’s behavior on CNN today was inexcusable and unacceptable. 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 off.”

Laurie Goldberg, a CNN spokeswoman, said it was unclear how long Novak’s suspension would last or whether he would continue to be paid while he was off the air.

Novak did not immediately return phone and e-mail messages to his office.

The CNN incident was a leading topic for bloggers. On the liberal blog, one reader wondered whether conservative activists would demand that the Federal Communications Commission fine Novak for indecency. Many conservatives complained after rock star Bono uttered a profanity during an NBC awards show and the FCC took no action.

Novak published Plame’s name in a 2003 column, causing a political uproar. In some instances, disclosing the name of a CIA operative can be a crime.

An independent counsel is investigating whether Bush administration officials illegally leaked Plame’s identity to retaliate against her husband, who had sharply criticized the White House’s justification for going to war in Iraq.