TV Networks, Newspapers Aren't Publishing Ukraine Whistleblower's Name

Mark Zaid - March 9, 2017 in Washington, DC- Getty-H 2019
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

MSNBC and NBC News have both decided against publishing the official's name until or unless they go public. Fox News hasn't named the person.

On Wednesday, the conservative news publication Breitbart identified the name of the government employee who first blew the whistle on President Donald Trump's conversations with Ukraine, kicking off the House impeachment inquiry. Two days earlier, on Monday night, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) used a Keep America Great rally with the president to pressure the media to identify the person. "Do your job and print his name!" Paul said.

But the country's leading broadcast television networks, cable news networks and newspapers have all yet to identify the official's name, and that doesn't seem likely to change.

MSNBC and NBC News are not naming or identifying the whistleblower until or unless he or she identifies themself publicly, network spokespeople tell The Hollywood Reporter. (CBS News and ABC News have not identified the person, either.)

"The Washington Post has long respected the right of whistleblowers to report wrongdoing in confidence, which protects them against retaliation," a spokesperson said in a statement. "We also withhold identities or other facts when we believe that publication would put an individual at risk. Both of those considerations apply in this case."

The New York Times was the first to publish information about the official's background, identifying the person as a CIA officer who was detailed to the White House in a story late last month.

"We published some identifying information about the whistleblower weeks ago to help our readers assess the person's credibility," a spokesperson tells THR. "At this stage, with much of what the whistleblower had reported confirmed as fact, it's not imperative to publish further detail."

The newspaper is not declining to publish the whistleblower's name, but rather is not pursuing the identity, a source says.

Which gets at a bigger point: None of these news organizations has seemingly pinned down the whistleblower's name, which makes a decision not to publish it even easier.

"We here at Fox News do not know for sure the identity of the whistleblower," Fox News senior political analyst Brit Hume said on air on Tuesday. "We have read some reports that give a name. We haven't confirmed it, so we're not saying it." (A Fox News spokesperson did not respond when asked for the network's policy on identifying the individual.)

CNN appears to be aligned with Fox News, though the network has also not said publicly whether it would name the whistleblower. 

During a Tuesday morning appearance on New Day, Axios editor (and CNN contributor) Margaret Talev said, "My news organization decided at the outset that the whistleblower has legitimate protections and we weren't going to be in the business of attempting to out this person. I think most major, mainstream news organizations obviously feel the same way."

"CNN does as well," CNN co-anchor Alisyn Camerota interjected. 

But while the news division at Fox News hasn't confirmed the whistleblower's identity, according to Hume, opinion host Sean Hannity said Monday night that he knows who it is. "We actually do know, don't we?" he told his panel. "I actually have multiple confirmations of who the whistleblower is. But, you know, I'll play the game for a little bit."

Around the same time, Hannity's news-side colleague, correspondent Gillian Turner, took to Twitter to push back on Sen. Paul's demand that the media publish the person's name. "Going public with their name is illegal," she wrote. "Sources compare it to outing a covert intelligence operative."