I can’t recall Steve Roberts (Cokie’s hubby) being this blunt. Roberts, who worked for the NYT for 25 years, usually soft-pedals as a substitute host and commentator on NPR’s Diane Rehm show. From this morning’s Reliable Sources (transcript) hosted by the WaPo’s Howard Kurtz on CNN:
KURTZ: Steve Roberts, you worked with Judy Miller for many years. She has a letter that I referred to in this morning’s paper. She says, “‘The Times’ misconstrued my reasons for finally agreeing to testify by quoting with approval the self-serving statements of Libby’s lawyer.”
How do you explain the way she views herself here, the gap between that and the apparent anger at her by many people who were at “The Times” and who used to work at “The Times?”
STEVE ROBERTS, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: You know, I think there is a parallel between Judith Miller and Mary Mapes, your guest on the first half-hour here, Howard. Both of them are convinced that they were right and everybody else was wrong.
And I think that Miller — the single biggest mistake Judy Miller made was the same mistake Mary Mapes made. She wanted this story to be true true.
KURTZ: This being the WMD story.
ROBERTS: The WMD story. I think she protected Scooter Miller — Scooter Libby not just as a confidential source, but as part of a group of people who were arguing the same line that she favored and wanted to defend.
I think she made the exact same mistake as Mary Mapes. She ran through the stop signs because she in her heart wanted this story to be true.
ROBERTS: And I think also that — I think she’s right, there was lingering resentment there, Howie. But it’s not just for these stories.
Judy Miller called herself Miss Run Amuck. Judy Miller for years has operated outside the rules of “The New York Times.”
KURTZ: Well, I mean, she was your editor at one point. Was she difficult to work with?
ROBERTS: Impossible to work with.
KURTZ: Why so?
ROBERTS: And she herself has admitted she was a terrible editor. And she was right about that, at least.
KURTZ: Why was she impossible to work with?
ROBERTS: Because she was very high strung, very nervous, very uncertain and mercurial. The worst kind of person to have as an editor. What you need is steady calmness.
But beyond that, she always traded on her friendships with the publishers of “The New York Times.” She always did not play by the same rules everybody else did.
The same mistake they made with Jayson Blair they made with Judy Miller. If you allow someone to operate outside the checks and balances, outside the editorial procedures, outside the normal bounds of responsibility, you’re going to run into trouble.
They did not learn that lesson with Jayson Blair, and it came back to bite them with Judy Miller again.