Richard Perle: Defends Miller, Chastises Ricks

“I never worked with Judy Miller,” said Thomas Ricks, Washington Post military correspondent and Fiasco author.

Ricks was defending the Post’s coverage during the run-up to the Iraq War, and drew some laughter from the New York Times-toting crowd last night at the 92nd Street Y.

The occasion was a panel discussion moderated by veteran journalist Robert McNeil, and featuring former Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle Perle, documentary Filmmaker Martin Smith, and Ricks. Prior to the heated discussion on the war, two clips were shown from “America at a Crossroads,” a week-long PBS series that premieres in April, that features Smith and Perle.

Perle, who still defends the invasion of Iraq, took plenty of criticism from the floor: there were several shouts of “liar,” a fair amount of hissing, and the ejection of one audience member who was shouting about how the Bush administration benefited from 9/11.

But later, during a press Q&A, Perle took the opportunity to swipe back at Ricks.

(As Perle, Smith and McNeil sat down for the post-panel Q&A, Ricks passed through already in his overcoat. Ricks said that as a reporter, he shouldn’t be up there answering questions).

“I didn’t have a chance inside to defend my friend Judy Miller,” said Perle. “I don’t know if the New York Times is still here.”

“Judy reported, with the great skill she possesses, what she was being told by people who had access to the information, who believed what they were telling her. The derision that she has suffered, because some of that information is inaccurate, is an appalling way to judge–particularly–a fellow journalist.

“I think that anyone who goes back over what Judy was writing will find that it was professionally sourced, and accurately reported. I was following what she were writing, and I knew what people in the administration, and elsewhere, were saying, based on the information that was available to them. I think that she has been dealt with unfairly. It particular pains me that Tom–that a remark would come from a fellow journalist.”

-Michael Calderone