2020, Culture War

Reminder: Valerie Plame Is Lying

September 18, 2019
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Former CIA operative Valerie Plame, who became famous following the leak of her identity, is running for Congress. Her campaign kickoff ad is based on a blatant lie.

In her ad, Plame claims that Scooter Libby (recently and justifiably pardoned by the president) leaked her identity in order to retaliate against her husband, Joseph Wilson—a former diplomat, who, at the time, had written an op-ed criticizing the Iraq war.

This is a lie. Colin Powell’s then-deputy, Richard Armitage, admitted that he was the one who leaked Plame’s identity, not Libby.

In fact, contrary to popular belief, Libby was not convicted of leaking Plame’s identity. The former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney was convicted (unfairly) on the charges of perjury and obstruction of justice in what was a politically-charged investigation by Patrick Fitzgerald. If you want to know how infallible Fitzgerald is, consider that he’s the same prosecutor who brought no charges against Michigan State University’s serial sex-abuser Larry Nassar.

And it’s not like people don’t realize that Plame is lying. Her ad earned her three Pinocchios from Washington Post’s fact checker.

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None of this stopped Reuters from running a piece blaming Libby, writing, “Libby, a senior aide to Vice President Dick Cheney, told journalists in private briefings that Plame was the person who had recommended Wilson for the trip, which led to her cover being blown.” The Week ran a similar story. Business Insider was less unfair, writing, “Though no one has ever been explicitly prosecuted for the leak, Plame has long pointed her finger at the Bush administration and, in her video, specifically laid blame on former Vice President Dick Cheney’s ex-chief of staff Scooter Libby.”

Each of these contentions is true: Yes, nobody was ever explicitly prosecuted for the Plame leak and yes, Plame has long blamed Libby. But they add up to a falsehood because:

  1. We know who leaked her name.
  2. We we know it because the leaker himself admitted it.
  3. The leaker was Richard Armitage.

None of this is new. After Libby received pardon, the New York Times wrote that “we never learned the real story about whether Vice President Dick Cheney had ordered Mr. Libby, his chief of staff, to leak the identity of Valerie Plame.” They omitted Armitage’s confession, too.

Why? Because the story was set years ago: Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and their deputies were the villains of the Iraq war, while Colin Powell, Ricard Armitage, and their deputies were the patriotic statesmen trying to Do the Right Thing.


There is also another problem with Plame’s ad: She claims that her ancestry goes back to Ukrainian Jewry. This random fact drop is there to protect her from charges of being an anti-Semite.

Why would people think Valerie Plame had an anti-Semitism problem? Well, last year she tweeted an article, titled, “America’s Jews Are Driving America’s Wars,” from Unz Review. In response to criticism, she tweeted, “First of all, calm down. Re-tweets don’t imply endorsements. Yes, very provocative, but thoughtful. Many neocon hawks ARE Jewish.” (Side Note: Scooter Libby? Also Jewish.)

Later, Plame apologized for her tweet, claiming that she had only skimmed the article. Perhaps this was one of the rare cases where the headline—“America’s Jews Are Driving America’s Wars”—didn’t fully tip off the reader to what was inside.

It’s telling that very few stories mention Plame’s problematic tweets—even as explanation for the bizarre line in her ad about her Jewish ancestry. Yet, so many of them recycle the disproven charge that Scooter Libby was the guy who outed her. In the meantime, Armitage is permanently off the hook.

Shay Khatiri

Shay Khatiri is a graduate student of Strategic Studies at Johns Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies. He grew up in Iran and left the country in 2011. He is currently seeking political asylum in the United States. Follow him @ShayKhatiri.