- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 20, 2005

Liberals are peeved at New York Times reporter Judith Miller, rather than buying her in the role of a free-press martyr.

“They think she was a handmaiden of the Bush administration who foisted the Iraq war off on America under false pretenses,” said Mickey Kaus, a columnist for Slate and a contributing editor to the Washington Monthly.

“The Left sees the New York Times as their private property. Miller has become a traitor to the liberal camp. Now, the Left is like a host body, rejecting an alien creature,” Mr. Kaus observed yesterday.

“It’s interesting that she received such fevered opposition when people like [New Yorker editor] David Remnick also supported the war and got no criticism,” he said. “Maybe it’s because Miller has a long history of drawing gossipy attention to herself and posturing as a righteous person.”

Still, the liberal reaction to a perceived turncoat is complex.

“It’s hard to categorize exactly what the Left thinks of Judy Miller,” said David Corn, Washington editor of the Nation magazine, who pointed out that her critics emerged from across the political spectrum.

Liberals, he said, already were vexed that the Bush administration adopted “real policy change” after Mrs. Miller reported that weapons of mass destruction were present in Iraq two years ago, a claim that was not proved.

“My hunch is that liberal news consumers will feel this more deeply, and will feel more resentment towards the Times than their conservative counterparts,” Mr. Corn said.

“I was rooting for the Times to turn the corner, to get it right. I kept wondering how people smart enough to be running this paper read Miller’s own account of the situation last Sunday and didn’t see the obvious pitfalls,” he said. “I want to have faith in the Times, but I found myself thinking, ‘Who’s running the show here?’ ”

In an Oct. 16 essay, Mrs. Miller claimed that I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, was not the first person to reveal the identity of CIA operative Valerie Plame, but she could not recall the identity of the initial source.

“Is she the white hat or the black hat here? Is the Times covering for her? Is she a White House tool?” asked Arne Arneson, a progressive talk radio host from New Hampshire. “I want to be proud of her, but she’s broken trust, and that colors everything.”

Some press critics called upon the Times to fire Mrs. Miller. Her attorney, Floyd Abrams, described it as a “piling on.”

Mrs. Miller struck back Tuesday while receiving the First Amendment Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, telling her audience that anyone who believed she had gone to jail to be a martyr, advance her career or get a book advance “knows nothing.”

The Times sent a mixed message.

“I hope my first instinct — and the paper’s — would still be to defend a reporter in the line of duty, even if the circumstances lack the comfort of moral clarity,” managing editor Bill Keller wrote in an Oct. 17 staff memo.

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