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John Frederick Dickerson (born 1968) is an American journalist. He is chief political correspondent for Slate magazine and political director of CBS News. Before joining Slate, Dickerson covered politics at Time magazine for 12 years, serving the last four as White House correspondent.
A native of Washington, D.C., Dickerson is a son of C. Wyatt Dickerson and Nancy Dickerson Whitehead. He has three sisters and one brother and grew up in McLean, Va. at Merrywood, a sprawling 49 acre estate with a 36-room Georgian-style mansion, high on a leafy bluff overlooking the Potomac River. Dickerson's parents purchased the property in 1964 from Hugh Auchincloss, following a protracted legal battle which eventually prevented Aushincloss from developing a massive high-rise apartment complex on the site.
Auchincloss was step-father to both Jacqueline Kennedy and Gore Vidal, who each spent significant portions of their childhoods at the estate. Vidal put the house at the center of his 1967 novel "Washington, D.C.," and John F. Kennedy wrote parts of "Profiles in Courage" while living at Merrywood following his marriage to Jacqueline.
Following his parent's 1981 divorce, Dickerson lived with his father in a small three-room Georgetown townhouse. He graduated from Sidwell Friends School in 1987, and holds a degree in English with distinction from the University of Virginia. On Her Trail, Dickerson's book about his relationship with his late mother Nancy Dickerson Whitehead, a pioneering television newswoman, was published by Simon and Schuster in 2006.
Dickerson hosted Face the Nation three times in 2009 and was appointed political director of CBS News in November, 2011. He appeared each Wednesday on The Al Franken Show on Air America Radio, until the show ended in 2007, and was also a frequent guest on NPR's Day to Day. He appears on PBS's Washington Week and Slate's Political Gabfest, a weekly podcast with David Plotz and Emily Bazelon.
Dickerson co-wrote a July 17, 2003, Time article, "A War on Wilson?", which attributed the leak of Valerie Plame's CIA identity to senior Bush administration officials. Writing for Slate in February 2006 ("Where's My Subpoena?"), Dickerson speculated about why Patrick Fitzgerald never called him as a grand jury witness for his "bit role" in the drama.
On January 29, 2007, during the trial of Scooter Libby, former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, testifying under an immunity agreement, named Dickerson as one of two reporters (the other was David Gregory of NBC) to whom he revealed that Wilson's wife worked at the CIA on July 11, 2003, during a Presidential visit to Niger, three days before her name was published by columnist Robert Novak. Another reporter, Tamara Lipper of Newsweek, reportedly walked away before he spoke of Plame. Dickerson has refuted Fleischer's account, claiming that Fleischer urged him to look into who sent Wilson but that he did not mention Plame's name or CIA identity. In a second trial dispatch on the matter, Dickerson revealed a previously-undisclosed excerpt from his email that July afternoon which he said corroborated his account: "On background WH officials were dissing Wilson. They suggested he was sent on his mission by a low level person at the agency." Neither Lipper nor Gregory has commented publicly about what Fleischer told them.
On January 31, 2007, former Time reporter Matthew Cooper testified that Dickerson's Africa sources contributed information to the article "A War on Wilson?" In addition to Ari Fleischer, Dickerson also spoke to White House Communications Director Dan Bartlett while in Africa[who?].
The Washington Post once wrote about his style of asking questions: “The master of the game is John Dickerson of Time magazine, who has knocked Bush off script so many times that his colleagues have coined a term for cleverly worded, seemingly harmless, but incisive questions: ‘Dickersonian.’”
On February 29, 2008, Senator Hillary Clinton released a "red phone" television ad suggesting that her opponent, Senator Barack Obama, was unprepared to be President. On a conference call with Clinton staff, Dickerson asked, "What foreign policy moment would you point to in Hillary's career where she's been tested by crisis?" The question prompted—according to The Hotline—a "pregnant pause" so long "you could've knit a sweater in the time it took the usually verbose team of Mark Penn, Howard Wolfson and Lee Feinstein, Clinton's national security director, to find a cogent answer."
Dickerson caused some controversy on the eve of President Obama's second inauguration. As political director for CBS News, he wrote an article entitled, "Go for the Throat!: Why if he wants to transform American politics, Obama must declare war on the Republican Party."