Plame faces scrutiny following campaign ad release

A fact check from the Washington Post on Valerie Plame’s new campaign video gave it ‘three pinocchios,’ which is the newspaper’s rating for a claim that has ‘significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.’ Courtesy image from video

Congressional candidate Valerie Plame was questioned in national media outlets Monday night and Tuesday about claims made in her new campaign ad and about retweeting articles from a website identified with anti-Semitism.

Plame, who is running for New Mexico’s 3rd Congressional District, said in her video released Monday that former Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, Scooter Libby, leaked her identity as a CIA operative in 2003.

“Dick Cheney’s chief of staff took revenge against my husband and leaked my identity,” Plame says in the video. “His name: Scooter Libby. Guess who pardoned him last year?” The video then shows an image of President Donald Trump.

The Washington Post, however, published a fact-check article Tuesday giving the video “three pinocchios,” which is the newspaper’s rating for a claim that has “significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions.”

According to the Post, there is no evidence Libby disclosed Plame’s identity to Robert Novak, the columnist who publicly disclosed her role. Rather, it was then-Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage who gave the information to Novak, who then confirmed Plame’s identity with former White House aide Karl Rove and a CIA spokesman, the newspaper said.

The Post said it didn’t give a rating of four pinocchios because “one can possibly draw a fuzzy line from Libby’s inquiries about Wilson’s role, the State Department memo and Libby’s conversations with administration officials to the eventual leak of Plame’s name.”

Joseph Wilson was Plame’s husband and a former U.S. ambassador to nations in Africa. Novak’s 2003 column said Plame had suggested sending Wilson to Niger to investigate whether Saddam Hussein had sought uranium in Africa. The claim about a uranium deal in Africa was a justification used by the Bush administration to invade Iraq.

“Administration officials were certainly eager to try to discredit Wilson, who had emerged as a damaging critic about the failed search to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” the Post added.

A Plame campaign spokeswoman said Tuesday that neither the candidate nor representatives had a comment on the matter.

However, Daniel Garcia, a Plame spokesman, told the Post, “From his trial, it was clear that Libby gave Valerie’s name to New York Times reporter Judith Miller.”

“Please recall that Scooter Libby was convicted of obstruction of justice because he attempted to hide information from the prosecutors,” the Post quoted Garcia as saying. “He obstructed justice, perjured himself and was held accountable until Donald Trump pardoned him. No one suggested he leaked it.”

Separately, CNN host Chris Cuomo questioned Plame on Monday evening about her sharing of articles on social media from the website UNZ Review in 2017, including one titled “America’s Jews Are Driving America’s Wars.”

The article said, among other things, that “rich and powerful” American Jews were “happy to deliver” a war with Iran, and that the media should label American Jews at the bottom of television screens in a way that “would be kind-of-like a warning label on a bottle of rat poison.”

Plame told Cuomo that she had apologized “profusely” for the matter.

“It’s not who I am and it’s not what I believe,” she told Cuomo.

When he pressed her on why she retweeted it, Plame said she “didn’t read the article all the way through.”

Cuomo then noted Plame had shared content from the site on multiple occasions.

“Why would you have anything do with a website that is operated or at least provided by a guy that’s a Holocaust denier?” he asked.

“Because social media and Twitter can be a pretty hateful environment, and it doesn’t exactly lend itself to thoughtful discussion or reading all the way through,” Plame replied. “I made a terrible mistake, and I hurt people whose beliefs I respect, and I apologized for it.”

Plame is running in a crowded Democratic primary race that has 10 candidates, including First Judicial District Attorney Marco Serna, Santa Fe lawyer Teresa Leger Fernandez and former New Mexico Deputy Secretary of State John Blair.

Other announced candidates for the Democratic primary include Kyle Tisdel, a Taos attorney with the Western Environmental Law Center; Sandoval County Treasurer Laura M. Montoya; state Rep. Joseph Sanchez of Alcalde; former Navajo Nation presidential candidate Dineh Benally; Gavin Kaiser of Santa Cruz and Cameron Alton Chick Sr. of Rio Rancho.

Three Republicans — Audra Lee Brown, Alexis Johnson and Karen Bedonie — have registered as candidates for the seat now held by U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., who is vacating it to run for the U.S. Senate.

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Jens Erik Gould covers politics for the Santa Fe New Mexican. He was a correspondent for Bloomberg News in Mexico City, a regular contributor for TIME in California, and produced the video series Bravery Tapes.

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