Robert Novak Leaving CNN for Fox News

By Linton Weeks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 17, 2005

Robert Novak, the gruff-voiced political pundit and occasional loose cannon in a three-piece suit, is leaving CNN and going to work for Fox News.

In the recent past, Novak has been making news more than commenting on it. In a controversial move, he printed the name of CIA agent Valerie Plame in a 2003 newspaper column, which triggered a full-fledged, multilayered investigation into who leaked that information. In August he cursed at fellow analyst James Carville and abandoned the set of a CNN political talk show mid-broadcast. Just recently he suggested to a group in North Carolina that President Bush knows the source of the CIA leak.

Asked if these incidents led to his departure, he laughed and said he doesn't think so.

In a terse and to-the-point statement, Jon Klein, president of CNN/U.S., said yesterday, "After 25 years of serving as a CNN commentator and program host, our colleague Bob Novak's tenure on the network will come to a close." Klein ticked off the various and not-so-diverse shows that Novak has appeared on, including "Crossfire," "The Capital Gang" and "Evans and Novak," all of which have been canceled.

"We appreciate his many contributions," Klein said, "and wish him well in future endeavors."

Klein was traveling and could not be reached yesterday, but Edie Emery, a CNN spokeswoman, said Novak's contract is up at the end of this year and "it was a good time to take stock of things."

Getting a divorce means that CNN does not have to deal with the politically dicey tendency of Novak to make news, and that Novak can hold forth on matters in an environment conducive to his conservatism.

"I will be 75 years old in February," Novak said. "I wanted to do a lot less."

He said that since all of his shows have been axed, "I didn't have that much to do and didn't ask for more to do."

Novak epitomizes that ever-more-rare Washington creature, the snarly insider who appears to see through the political gauze. He is one of the last people at CNN who was there from the start in 1980.

"This was the time to end our relationship," he said. He and Klein agreed on the split in late October or early November, Novak said. He added that CNN is going in a different direction and doesn't want his type of show anymore. "That's their decision," he said. "I don't quarrel with them on that."

He said that he will speak out about the Valerie Plame case after Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald finishes his investigation. His role at Fox will be more limited. "I won't have a program of my own," he said. Novak will continue to write a syndicated column (which appears in this paper) and produce a newsletter, the Evans-Novak political report, published since 1967.

Mark Shields, who first worked with Novak on TV in 1988, said, "In defense of Novak, the brass at CNN never understood what Novak meant to the network during the ascent of Fox. When CNN was branded the Clinton News Network . . . Novak gave them their true-blue conservative credentials. He was the antidote, the rebuttal to that charge."

Carville, who has appeared with Novak on CNN programs, was asked if he thinks the schism between Novak and CNN is as amicable as it's being portrayed. "In this case, I don't know what the truth really is," he said. "I suspect you're getting about 85 percent of it."

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