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The Woodward Bombshell

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By Howard Kurtz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 17, 2005; 10:33 AM

A particularly surreal moment on a very intense day:

I had already interviewed Len Downie and Bob Woodward and posted a story on this Web site about Woodward's late-in-the-game disclosure of his role in the Valerie Plame controversy. As I was writing a story for today's paper, I saw Woodward across the newsroom and walked over to ask him a couple of follow-up questions.

At that moment, Downie appeared on a TV set, fielding questions on "Hardball," and we and a few other reporters watched as the executive editor described how Woodward had made a mistake but generally defended his reporter. Chris Matthews began asking increasingly speculative questions, and Downie increasingly was declining to answer them.

Finally, Downie said Woodward would be more careful about expressing his personal opinions on TV -- "even if you ask him questions, Chris."

Woodward laughed. But I think it's fair to say that yesterday was no laughing matter for him or The Post. He is accustomed to being the subject of controversy, but usually it's for something he has reported rather than held back.

I'm going to post my story on the subject, then round up some MSM coverage and tell you how all this is playing in the blogosphere (hint: not well).

Here is the story as it appeared in today's Post:

"Bob Woodward apologized to The Washington Post yesterday for failing to revealfor more than two years that a senior Bush administration official had told him about CIA operative Valerie Plame, even as an investigation of who disclosed her identity mushroomed into a national scandal.

"Woodward, an assistant managing editor and best-selling author, said he told Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. that he held back the information because he was worried about being subpoenaed by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, the special counsel leading the investigation.

" 'I apologized because I should have told him about this much sooner," Woodward, who testified in the CIA leak investigation Monday, said in an interview. "I explained in detail that I was trying to protect my sources. That's job number one in a case like this. . . .

" 'I hunkered down. I'm in the habit of keeping secrets. I didn't want anything out there that was going to get me subpoenaed.'

"Downie, who was informed by Woodward late last month, said his most famous employee had 'made a mistake.' Despite Woodward's concerns about his confidential sources, Downie said, 'he still should have come forward, which he now admits. We should have had that conversation. . . . I'm concerned that people will get a mis-impression about Bob's value to the newspaper and our readers because of this one instance in which he should have told us sooner.'


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