CNN took veteran political columnist Robert Novak off the air late Thursday after he uttered an expletive and walked off the set of "Inside Politics" while it was still on the air.
Novak's outburst happened 10 minutes before the end of the show in the midst of an exchange among Novak, fellow analyst James Carville and "Inside Politics" anchor Ed Henry. They were talking about the possible Senate candidacy of Florida congresswoman Katherine Harris when Carville needled Novak and tried to interrupt.
"He's got to show the right-wingers that he's got backbone," Carville, a Democrat, said of his political rival. "Go ahead, the Wall Street Journal editorial page is watching. Show them you're tough."
Novak, shown on the screen sitting next to Carville, waved his right hand and replied: "I think that's bull----, and I hate that. Just let it go." While Henry addressed another question to Carville, Novak stood up, walked off the set behind Carville fully visible to viewers and apparently pulled off his microphone. Henry and Carville didn't miss a beat.
"Bob Novak's behavior on CNN was inexcusable and unacceptable," a CNN spokeswoman said. "Mr. Novak has apologized to CNN, and CNN apologizes to its viewers for his language and actions. We've asked Mr. Novak to take some time off."
It wasn't clear how long Novak would be off the network, where he has appeared since 1980. A CNN executive said Thursday night that it was a mutual decision between CNN and Novak, reports Reuters.
According to MSNBC, Only two weeks ago, CNN executives defended their decision to keep Novak on the air during the ongoing probe into the revelation of CIA officer Valerie Plame’s identity. In a July 2003 newspaper column, Novak identified Plame, the wife of administration critic and former U.S. ambassador Joseph Wilson, as a CIA operative.
Wilson has said the leak of his wife’s name was an attempt by the administration to discredit him. Two other reporters connected to the case openly fought the revelation of their sources, and Judith Miller of The New York Times has been jailed for refusing to cooperate with prosecutors.
Novak has repeatedly refused to comment about his role in the federal investigation.
After Novak walked off on Thursday, Henry said that Novak had been told before the segment that he was going to be asked on air about the CIA case.
“I’m hoping that we will be able to ask him about that in the future,” Henry said.