There has been a storm of controversy over the question that Meet the Press host David Gregory (6/23/13) asked Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald about NSA whistleblower Edwards Snowden:
To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements, why shouldn't you, Mr. Greenwald, be charged with a crime?
To the surprise of no one who is familiar with Greenwald's work, he pushed back hard:
I think it's pretty extraordinary that anybody who would call themselves a journalist would publicly muse about whether or not other journalists should be charged with felonies. The assumption in your question, David, is completely without evidence, the idea that I've aided and abetted him in any way.
Gregory's immediate response was that he was just asking questions:
Well, the question of who's a journalist may be up for debate with regard to what you are doing. And, of course, anybody who is watching this understands I was asking the question; that question has been raised by lawmakers, as well. I'm not embracing anything.
And Gregory returned to that later on in the show:
Here's what Greenwald has tweeted after his appearance this morning: "Who needs the government to try to criminalize journalism when you have David Gregory to do it?"
I want to directly take that on, because this is the problem for someone who claims that he is a journalist, who would [be] objecting to a journalist raising a question which is not actually embracing any particular point of view. And that's part of the tactics of the debate here when, in fact, lawmakers have questioned him, there's a question about his role in this, the Guardian's role in all of this. It is actually part of the debate; rather than going after the questioner, he could take on the issues and had an opportunity do that here on Meet the Press.
The thing is, Gregory didn't just "ask a question." He said, "To the extent that you have aided and abetted Snowden, even in his current movements…" To Greenwald, the assumption is that he is involved in a crime–aiding and abetting–and the question Gregory is pondering is the extent of his wrongdoing.
If Gregory did not intend to put the question that way, he should say that–not criticize Greenwald for accurately understanding the question as it was posed.
It's not as if Gregory was alone in wondering about Greenwald's role. As his NBC colleague Chuck Todd put it later on in the show:
Glenn Greenwald, you know, how much was he involved in the plot? It's one thing as a source, but what was his role –did he have a role beyond simply being a receiver of this information? And is he going to have to answer those questions? There is a point of law. He's a lawyer. He attacked the premise of your question. He didn't answer it.
When Gregory and Todd suggest that Greenwald is not an actual journalist–"someone who claims that he is a journalist," or someone "involved in the plot"–what they ware really saying is that Glenn Greenwald is not their kind of journalist.
And that's true. During the Lewis "Scooter" Libby trial, Gregory's predecessor Tim Russert revealed, as Greg Mitchell noted (Huffington Post, 6/13/08), that "he considered his chats with sources all off-the-record unless put on the record, the opposite of the usual journalistic approach." Likewise, when former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford was embroiled in a bizarre extramarital affair saga, Gregory emailed Sanford's office to extend a helping hand, letting him know that "coming on Meet the Press allows you to frame the conversation how you really want to…and then move on." And, of course, there's Gregory's backup dancer performance piece with George W. Bush adviser Karl Rove at the 2007 correspondents' dinner.
You see, that's how real journalists behave.
Today the Washington Post (6/24/13) has a piece headlined, "On NSA Disclosures, Has Glenn Greenwald Become Something Other Than a Reporter?" If the standard for "reporter" is the likes of Gregory and Chuck Todd, Greenwald is certainly more than a reporter. Thank goodness.