Off the Record Is Off the Record…Until I Have a Book to Sell

Actually, I originally titled this post “Once an Asshole…Always An Asshole” but I thought I should remember we’re a family blog.

Some of you know that I used to work for Tom Eagleton and that he died last March. Yesterday, I stumbled across this press release from Robert Novak’s publisher:


Former Sen. Tom Eagleton Labeled ’72 Dem Nominee McGovern as Candidate of’Amnesty, Abortion and Acid’
WASHINGTON, July 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Today on NBC’s Meet the Press, columnist Robert Novak revealed one of his most secret sources: Sen. Tom Eagleton (D-MO) gave him the quote that labeled 1972 Democratic presidential nominee George McGovern as the candidate of “Amnesty, Abortion and Acid.” This is reported for the first time in his new memoir: The Prince of Darkness: 50 Years Reporting in Washington (Crown Forum).
Following McGovern’s stunning victory in the ’72 Massachusetts primary, Novak began calling Democratic politicians to get their reaction. The April 27, 1972 Evans & Novak column reported an anonymous source as saying “people don’t know McGovern is for amnesty, abortion and legalization of pot. Once middle America — Catholic middle America, in particular — find this out, he’s dead.” This sent Washington into a frenzy to try to figure out which Democrat was bad-mouthing one of his own.
Ironically, several months later Eagleton would be tapped as McGovern’s running mate, only to be replaced after it was learned that Eagleton underwent electro-shock therapy for depression. In his memoir of the 1972 campaign, McGovern’s press secretary Richard Dougherty made a comment that implied Novak had fabricated the quote. In an
attempt to set the record straight, Novak asked Sen. Eagleton for permission to disclose his name. Eagleton replied that he made the comment off-the- record and he intended it to stay that way. Mr. Novak contacted Sen. Eagleton as he was writing The Prince of Darkness and, thirty years later, still would not allow his identity to be revealed.
Former Sen. Tom Eagleton died on March 4, 2007, thus freeing Mr. Novak to reveal the source of one of the most memorable quotes in presidential campaign history.

I have no idea if Tom said this to Novak or not. I do know that he’s conveniently no longer around to rebut the allegation. I also know that Novak’s is the same guy who turned over his source to the grand jury investigating Valerie Plame. And, I know that death does not release the obligation of a reporter to keep something off the record unless specifically agreed to.

But, hey, there’s a book to sell.

– Austin

4 thoughts on “Off the Record Is Off the Record…Until I Have a Book to Sell

  1. Ellen Mrja says:

    Seriously, why is Robert Novak not in federal prison? Did he or did he not publish the name of an undercover CIA operative who was in the field at the time? I don’t get why this horrid man continues to have the legs that he has in Washington and around the nation.

  2. jl says:

    He’s a piece of work. A good reminder that promises that conversations will be kept “off-the-record” are as reliable as pledges that “it’s not about the money.” It’s always about the money, and it’s never off-the-record.

  3. randi says:

    He’s a jerk, an unconvicted felon in my book. NYT Magazine profiled him last Sunday and he’s unrepentant. He’s lost all credibility.

  4. All this leaking stuff is so incestuous. Novak is the prince of source fellating. I’ll ( ) yours if you ( ) mine. Highly paid public servants (oxymoron supreme) breathlessly whispering nasty little secrets to highly-ego-inflated journalists. What a mess of crap.

    I was once at the Jockey Club, a way overpriced fancy restaurant in DC, with my aunt, and we watched as bigwig after bigwig went up to kiss the rings of Evans and Novak, who were sitting center court. Nauseating.

    These so-called journalists never get off their asses and do any real reporting. I.F. Stone (I know, I quote him like he wrote the Bible, because I believe his work is holy) showed that if you skip all the press briefings and the off-the-record whoring and go out and check the record and compare statements to facts you can give the public actual, useful information about the scoundrels who are running the government for their own benefit.

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