Tuesday on Fox News Channel’s “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” host Tucker Carlson and The Hill’s Joe Concha discussed the firing of Madeleine Westerout, who was fired as a result of an alleged breach of an off-the-record agreement between her and The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker.
Carlson criticized Rucker and the Post, with Concha noting such a breach is traditionally a fireable offense.
Transcript as follows:
CARLSON: Well, you may not have heard her name before, but until a few days ago, Madeleine Westerhout was the personal assistant to President Trump. By all accounts, she worked hard and did well at her job.
It’s hard to find anyone in Washington who doesn’t like her. And yet now, she is unemployed and humiliated. How did that happen?
Well, she made the mistake of eating dinner with a Washington Post reporter called Phil Rucker. At the meal, Westerhout made a couple of caddy remarks about the President’s daughters. That’s unwise, but it’s hardly without precedent. That sort of thing can happen at dinners where wine is served.
What is stunning — what is really unusual is what happened next. The meal was explicitly off-the-record and for journalists, that is a bright line. That’s the brightest of all lines. Information journalists learn in off- the-record conversations absolutely cannot be shared. It’s one of the few unbreakable rules of the business. Everybody in the business knows that.
But because Madeleine Westerhout worked for Donald Trump, Phil Rucker of The Washington Post decided to break that rule — casually break it.
According to multiple sources, Phil Rucker decided to burn Westerhout and shared her remarks with others. Westerhout was immediately fired, and as we said, humiliated. Her life completely derailed.
Rucker, meanwhile, returned to Washington, the hero. In fact, he was happily yapping away on MSNBC this afternoon. His bosses at The Washington Post issued a statement telling the rest of us what a great guy he is.
Joe Concha writes about media for The Hill. He joins us tonight. So Joe, has something changed in the past couple of weeks? Is off-the-record no longer a category that journalists have to observe?
JOE CONCHA, MEDIA WRITER, THE HILL: As you mentioned, Tucker, that is a commandment — a commandment that should never be broken. It’s like Vegas, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” When you have an off-the-record conversation with a reporter, it is understood as long as the parties established beforehand that this is an off-the-record conversation that it’s not going to be mentioned. It’s not going to be published. It’s not going to be talked about in any capacity. It’s like seeing your psychiatrist almost or a priest or in confession. It’s not supposed to get out.
And in this case, there was also some other reporters there as well. Reporters from Bloomberg and Reuters and “The Wall Street Journal,” and then Phil Rucker, who you mentioned from “The Washington Post.”
It can’t be confirmed however, that Rucker actually burned this source here in Madeleine Westerhout, but that’s what a lot of sources are reporting right now. But again, I can’t confirm that, and I’m not going to do that here. Go ahead —
CARLSON: I think — hold on, let me just say, I think I can confirm that and we’ve spoken — I personally have spoken to people who have confirmed it. I’m satisfied with their knowledge of it.
So I believe that happened and I’m willing to say so explicitly. But we called over to Washington Pos” as we always do, and asked the subject of the segment, you know, for a statement. Did this happen? And The Washington Post refused to respond to our questions that issued this absurd little statement about how much they like Phil Rucker.
But I just want you to confirm for us that this is a really important question. This is not a small thing, if you’re a journalist, right? The question of whether you broken an off-the-record agreement.
CONCHA: It’s a fireable offense, in my opinion, because now you have taken this career of this 28-year-old in Madeleine Westerhout, and you think she is ever going to work in Washington again?
CONCHA: I mean, this is a very difficult situation for her. Now, granted, she bears some responsibility here. Clearly, you should know that given the acrimony between the press and the administration, and given the fact that there’s complete mistrust between the press and the administration and vice versa, the last thing you do is go out to dinner, get over served. It’s like sodium pentothal at that point, and you start talking, thinking that you could actually trust the people that you’re with, because in this case, it’s a means to an end.
No one cares that Madeleine Westerhout was burned here by somebody, they only care about the message, which was embarrassing to the President. So, I think that’s what we’re talking about here.
CARLSON: Well, that’s exactly it, so nobody gets to act like a human being anymore. Everyone has to be political all the time because of creeps like Phil Rucker, and organizations like The Washington Post, which are pure political organs designed to affect political outcomes.
They don’t care about individuals. They don’t care about the rules. They just care about power, and I really think there should be — I mean, you just said it, it’s a fireable offense to break this rule. Do you think there’s any chance that Phil Rucker will be fired from The Washington Post?
CONCHA: No, of course not. Because they would have issued a statement right now talking about it. But obviously, they’re backing them. And look, why would you burn this source if they’re openly talking like this?
The only thing I could think of is that it was a promise for more access by leaking this out from somebody else within the administration, by letting people know that you had this information and that the source said that.
CARLSON: Yes, I don’t know. All I know is that here, this young woman has really seen her life derailed, and none of the self-described feminists who are always jumping to the aid of women seem to care at all, and they’re all patting Phil Rucker on his ample back.
CONCHA: Good point.
Follow Jeff Poor on Twitter @jeff_poor