Friday, August 05, 2005

Novak Curses; Walks Off Live CNN Program

The New York Times

Novak Walks Off Live CNN Program

Robert D. Novak, the syndicated columnist whose unmasking of a C.I.A. operative touched off an investigation about a possible leak, stalked off a live appearance on CNN yesterday afternoon after James Carville, the Democratic strategist, accused him of trying to make a particular point "to show these right wingers" that he had "backbone" and was "tough."

The moderator of the program, Ed Henry, later said on the air that he had warned Mr. Novak that he planned to ask him "about the C.I.A. leak case."

"Hopefully, we'll be able to ask him about that in the future," Mr. Henry said.

That opportunity may not arrive soon. About two hours later, a spokeswoman for CNN, Laurie Goldberg, released a statement saying that the network had "asked Mr. Novak to take some time off." Asked later in a telephone interview whether Mr. Novak was being suspended from his work at the Cable News Network, Ms. Goldberg said, "We're characterizing it as a mutual decision."

In her earlier statement, Ms. Goldberg said: "Mr. Novak has apologized to CNN, and CNN apologizes to its viewers for his language and actions." Just before walking off the program, "Inside Politics," Mr. Novak uttered a profanity.

The heated exchange occurred in a minidebate between Mr. Carville and Mr. Novak over the possibility that Representative Katherine Harris of Florida, that state's former secretary of state, could win the Republican nomination for a Senate seat.

"She might get elected," Mr. Novak said.

After Mr. Carville tried to interrupt Mr. Novak twice, Mr. Novak said: "I know you hate to hear me. But you have to."

Mr. Carville interrupted again, saying of Mr. Novak, "He's got to show these right-wingers that he's got backbone."

A moment later, Mr. Carville said directly to Mr. Novak: "The Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching you. Show them you're tough."

Mr. Novak responded with a profanity, before telling Mr. Carville: "I hate that. Just let it go."

He stood up, removed his microphone and walked off.

Asked last night in a telephone interview why he thought Mr. Novak had acted as he did, Mr. Carville said, "Bob's probably got a lot going on in his life."

Mr. Novak did not respond to messages left last evening at his office and on his cellphone.

Though Mr. Novak's walk-off was extreme, the sparring between him and Mr. Carville was hardly unusual. For years, their disagreements had been a staple of "Crossfire," a program on which they were part of a rotating panel of debaters.

In January, the president of CNN's domestic networks, Jonathan Klein, announced his intention to cancel "Crossfire" because it and other such programs relied on "head butting debate."

Mr. Carville and Mr. Novak are, however, among the commentators scheduled to make periodic appearances on a new program, "The Situation Room," which begins Monday on CNN.