White House adviser David Axelrod made it clear that the Obama administration would be willing to make its members available to Fox News Channel, and FNC’s Michael Clemente made it clear that they would be welcome. But that reassurance came as members of the administration took new shots at FNC, which was happy to return fire.
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel admitted to CNN that “the way we, the President looks at [FNC] and we look at it is it is not a news organization so much as it has a perspective.”
The skirmishing was kicked up a notch the previous weekend, when WH communications director Anita Dunn told The New York Times, “We’re going to treat them the way we would treat an opponent. As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave.”
Speaking on ABC, even while agreeing to work with the network, Axelrod echoed Dunn’s remarks, saying of FNC, “It’s really not news — it’s pushing a point of view. And the bigger thing is that other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way, and we’re not going to treat them that way. We’re going to appear on their shows. We’re going to participate but understanding that they represent a point of view.”
Axelrod’s words notwithstanding, FNC’s Chris Wallace complained that he was unable to get anybody from the White House on his Sunday 10/18/09 program to discuss the war of words with Fox, or to discuss anything else. The best proxy he could come up with was former DNC head Terry McAuliffe.
Clemente’s open door statement was also laced with criticism. He said, “Surprisingly, the White House continues to declare war on a news organization instead of focusing on the critical issues that Americans are concerned about like jobs, health care and two wars. The door remains open and we welcome a discussion about the facts behind the issues.”
“The administration is making a mistake for itself,” said former White House adviser for George W. Bush and current Fox News analyst Karl Rove. “But more importantly, it is demeaning the office of the president by taking the president and moving him from a person who wants to be talking to everybody and communicating through every available channel the same, if you oppose me, you question me, if you are too tough on me, by gosh, me and my people are not going to come on, we are going to penalize you. That is just wrong, fundamentally wrong.”
Political website Politico noted, for the record, that the Bush White House also was known to freeze out select members of the media while Rove worked there. And the New York Times noted that Ulysses S Grant complained about the media in his second inaugural address, and complaints were heard going all the way back to George Washington.
RBR-TVBR observation: We’ll bet that this will continue to gather a head of a steam until President Obama himself personally goes back on the network for a high profile interview. Then a month or two will go by, or maybe only a week, and they’ll be right back at it like they are now.