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August 4, 2005
Novak Walks Off

Bob Novak blew a gasket today and stormed off the set of CNN's "Inside Politics", one of the usually more sane political reviews on cable news. After having spent years on "Crossfire" with Paul Begala, Michael Kinsley, and Bill Press, one would think that Novak had thick enough skin to do a straight-up three-way interview with Ed Henry and James Carville.

Apparently not.

Novak and Carville started discussing the allegations made by Florida Republican Katherine Harris that the media distorted her pictures deliberately during the 2000 post-election fiasco, colorizing them to make her look more gaudy and overly made up. Up to that point in the interview, the three had conducted themselves courteously, even graciously. When Carville attempted to interrupt Novak, however, Novak got incensed and may have created an FCC violation for CNN:

CARVILLE: Yes. You know the two happiest people in America today about this decision, is Bill Nelson and Jay Leno. I mean --

HENRY: Bill Nelson the Democratic Senator.

CARVILLE: The Democratic Senator and Jay Leno. That -- I mean, they're going to go nuts over this. They're messing with my make-up, but you really don't know who it is. I mean, let's say this: She's going to be good for the humor circuit. She's going to be good for the speech circuit and she's good for a lot. And I think that Nelson -- I think, it's probably no secret that the White House wanted the speaker to run and I suspect that the Nelson people are, you know, feeling pretty good here today.

NOVAK: A couple of points here: The first place, don't be too sure she's going to lose. All the establishment's against her and I've seen these Republican -- anti-establishment candidates who do pretty well. Ronald Reagan, I guarantee you that the establishment wasn't for him. We just elected a senator from Oklahoma, Senator Tom Coburn, everybody in the establishment was against him. She might get elected -- So, wait. Just let me finish what I'm going to say, James. Please, I know you hate to hear me, but you have...

CARVILLE: He's got to show these right wingers that he's got backbone. It's why the Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show them you're tough.

NOVAK: Well, I think that's b******t. And I hate that. Just let it go.

Carville's comments were made over Novak, starting at "So wait", and clearly got under Novak's skin. Watch the video here for a better idea of what happened. After the expletive undeleted, Novak stood up and and stomped off, leaving behind an amused Carville and a bemused Henry in his wake.

Maybe Bob Novak has had a bad year, but after watching this video twice, I fail to see what got him so riled up. Carville interrupting him? Novak has done too much of that in his career to get sensitive about that now. Carville's needling about showing backbone by standing up to him for interrupting hardly seemed anything more than a playful jab, especially considering what Carville can do when he wants to be mean.

Maybe Novak should think about retirement from television soon. If he can't behave any better than this, the choice may soon be made for him. He simply has no excuse for his language nor his thin-skinned attitude, and he owes CNN and Ed Henry an apology, if not Carville as well.

UPDATE: CNN has announced its suspension of Novak for his behavior on today's show (and has clarified Carville's comment, which I updated in the original post):

CNN suspended commentator Robert Novak indefinitely after he swore and walked off the set Thursday during a debate with Democratic operative James Carville.

The exchange during CNN's "Inside Politics" came during a discussion of Florida's Senate campaign. CNN correspondent Ed Henry noted when it was through that he had been about to ask Novak about his role in the investigation of the leak of a CIA officer's identity.

A CNN spokeswoman, Edie Emery, called Novak's behavior "inexcusable and unacceptable." Novak had apologized to CNN, and CNN was apologizing to viewers, she said.

"We've asked Mr. Novak to take some time off," she said.

I agree. Robert Novak has appeared on television long enough to know how to behave professionally. Even with the snarky reference to the WSJ editorial staff added in, nothing Carville said remotely justified either the expletive or the petulant abandonment of Ed Henry in the middle of the interview. As a CNN correspondent and commentator, Henry is Novak's colleague, and Novak left him hanging out to dry.

I'm sure that Novak has some mitigating circumstances, either some cross words with Carville before the show or during a break, or just the enormous pressure of having most of his media peers vilifying him for his role in the Plame affair most of the last two years. It doesn't matter. He chose to appear on "Inside Politics" with Carville, and he's been around the block with the crafty Cajun enough times to know what that means. Bob Novak ultimately has to take responsibility for his own actions and accept the consequences, and it appears from this Post article that he has, by apologizing for his rudeness. I hope that he will come back soon, without the petulance and the potty mouth.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 4, 2005 5:41 PM

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