The Washington Post publishes an admiring profile of CBS nightly news anchorman Scott Pelley, heir to the reprehensible Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather. Pelley, the Post tells us, is notable for his incessant attacks on President Trump:
With the words “credibility questioned” prominent on the screen, Scott Pelley once again is doing what network evening-news anchors generally don’t do: abandoning careful neutrality in favor of pointed truth-telling.
He is talking Thursday night about President Trump. And here are some of the words he is using: “his boasting and tendency to believe conspiracy theories.”
It’s nothing new. Pelley, of CBS Evening News, has set himself apart — especially in recent weeks — with a spate of such assessments, night after night.
The Post apparently thinks it is newsworthy that Pelley is attacking a Republican president (after eight years of cooing over Barack Obama). But we know better. The first time I recall hearing of Scott Pelley was when he was hosting 60 Minutes in early 2008, and he launched the most appalling smear campaign against Karl Rove–then the Democrats’ bete noir–imaginable.
Pelley produced a “witness,” an obviously deranged or attention-starved woman named Jill Simpson, to say that Karl Rove hired her to spy on former Democratic Governor of Alabama Don Siegelman, who went to prison for bribery and mail fraud. In fact, there is zero evidence that Ms. Simpson ever met or spoke to Karl Rove. The whole thing was a patent fantasy, elicited from Simpson by partisan Democrat Scott Pelley.
I wrote about the sorry affair on Power Line (e.g., here), and Rove himself cited our analysis as definitive. Sadly, those posts (with the partial exception of the one just linked) didn’t survive our latest database transfer. But my Weekly Standard article, titled “A Conspiracy So Lunatic…only 60 Minutes could fall for it,” survives. I will reproduce most of it, because it shows that Scott Pelley has always been a Democratic Party hack with no integrity at all.
Jill Simpson is an unusual woman. A lawyer, she has scratched out an uncertain living in DeKalb County, Alabama. Fellow DeKalb County lawyers describe her as “a very strange person” who “lives in her own world.” The daughter of rabid Democrats, she has rarely if ever been known to participate in politics as even a low-level volunteer. Yet today, she is a minor celebrity who is unvaryingly described in the press as a “Republican operative.” Those who know her in DeKalb County scoff at the idea that she is a Republican at all.
Recently, Simpson’s house and law office were on the auction block. Rumor has it that she is leaving DeKalb County for good and heading for the suburbs of Washington, D.C. Jill Simpson, who barely got by in Alabama, is now toasted by the national Democratic party and featured on network and cable news. All this because she has testified–without a shred of supporting evidence–to a conspiracy so vast as to be not just implausible, but ridiculous.
Simpson claims to have participated in a phone conversation with several Alabama Republicans in which she was made privy to a plot involving the Republican governor of Alabama, Bob Riley, a former justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, a federal judge, two United States attorneys, several assistant United States attorneys, the Air Force, and, apparently, 12 jurors, to “railroad” former governor Don Siegelman into his 2006 conviction for bribery and mail fraud. Every person whose name Simpson has invoked has labeled her story a fantasy, including Siegelman; she claimed to have played a key role both in his giving up his unsuccessful contest of the 2002 gubernatorial election and in his defense of the criminal charges against him.
Normally one might expect a person of uncertain mental health who alleged such a comprehensive conspiracy to be ushered quietly offstage. Instead, in late February, CBS’s 60 Minutes gave her a starring role. This can be explained only by the fact that Simpson included in her fable, as she related it to CBS, a final conspirator: Karl Rove, who, according to Simpson, orchestrated the plot against Siegelman.
This is where Scott Pelley comes in. Almost unbelievably, he gave this deranged woman a platform to smear Karl Rove on 60 Minutes.
In her 60 Minutes interview, Simpson claimed to have been Rove’s secret agent in Alabama. She said that during Siegelman’s term as governor of Alabama, Rove had asked her to follow Siegelman around and try to get photographs of him “in a compromising sexual position” with one of his aides. This led to one of the great moments in recent broadcast history:
60 Minutes’s Scott Pelley: Were you surprised that Rove made this request?
Pelley: Why not?
Simpson: I had had other requests for intelligence before.
Pelley: From Karl Rove?
Pelley was at a crossroads: He knew that either (1) he was on the verge of uncovering a whole series of Rovian plots, the stuff of which Pulitzers are made, or (2) he was talking to a lunatic. Intuiting, no doubt, which way the conversation was likely to go, Pelley discreetly chose not to inquire further.
Is there anyone in broadcast “journalism” more dishonest than Scott Pelley?
Simpson can offer no evidence that she has ever spoken to or met Karl Rove. Moreover, when she told her story of the alleged conspiracy against Don Siegelman to John Conyers’s House Judiciary Committee staff, she said that she heard references to someone named “Carl” in the aforementioned telephone conversation–she made the natural inference that this must be Karl Rove–but never offered the blockbuster claim that Rove himself had recruited her to spy on Siegelman. Neither in the affidavit that she submitted to the committee, nor in 143 pages of sworn testimony that she gave to the committee’s staff, did she ever claim to have met Karl Rove, spoken to Karl Rove, or carried out any secret spy missions on his behalf, even though the whole point of her testimony was to try to spin out a plot against Siegelman that was ostensibly led by someone named “Carl.”
60 Minutes chose to highlight Simpson’s claim that she was Rove’s secret agent without telling its viewers that this sensational allegation had been altogether absent from her sworn accounts.
Scott Pelley is a liar and a low-rent Democratic Party hack. That is all he has ever been. The fact that he is now smearing President Trump on a daily basis should be taken for what it is worth, i.e., nothing. We have been down this road with Mr. Pelley before.
The Post notes one fact that is slightly ironic, given its hero-worshipping treatment of Mr. Pelley:
Does something as old-school as the nightly news still carry weight in these days of 24/7 cable and self-reinforcing information sources? Undoubtedly, yes.
Together they reach 24 million viewers on a typical weeknight (with CBS the lowest-rated of the three).
Which suggests that even broadcast news watchers have some judgment.