David Broder points out in his column today, "One Leak and a Flood of Silliness," that the press owe Karl Rove a big apology for their asinine treatment of him in the Valerie Plame leak incident.

I agree entirely with Broder’s indictment of the press’s rush to judgment in this case.

The media’s overheated and absurd reaction to the Plame case reflects a common but utterly irresponsible and unacceptable phenomenon in journalism today: the assumption that people are guilty simply on the say-so of someone the members of the press want to like, as in the outrageous public execution of the Duke lacrosse team, or because the accused is an individual they are disposed to dislike.

Regarding the press’s mistreatment of Rove in the Plame case, I will let David Broder speak for himself in the following excerpts:

For much of the past five years, dark suspicions have been voiced about the Bush White House undermining its critics, and Karl Rove has been fingered as the chief culprit in this supposed plot to suppress the opposition.

Now at least one count in that indictment has been substantially weakened—the charge that Rove masterminded a conspiracy to discredit Iraq intelligence critic Joseph Wilson by "outing" his CIA-operative wife, Valerie Plame. . . .

No one behaved well in the whole mess—not Wilson, not [Lewis "Scooter"] Libby, [Vice President Cheney’s chief of staff,] not special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and not the reporters involved.

The only time I commented on the case was to caution reporters who offered bold First Amendment defenses for keeping their sources’ names secret that they had better examine the motivations of the people leaking the information to be sure they deserve protection.

But caution has been notably lacking in some of the press treatment of this subject — especially when it comes to Karl Rove. And it behooves us in the media to examine that behavior, not just sweep it under the rug. . . .

In fact, the prosecutor concluded that there was no crime; hence, no indictment. And we now know that the original "leak," in casual conversations with reporters Novak and Bob Woodward, came not from the conspiracy theorists’ target in the White House but from the deputy secretary of state at the time, Richard Armitage, an esteemed member of the Washington establishment and no pal of Rove or President Bush. . . .

[Salon.com, Newsweek, The American Prospect] and other publications owe Karl Rove an apology. And all of journalism needs to relearn the lesson: Can the conspiracy theories and stick to the facts.