The White House continues its crusade against Fox News Channel — but others are sitting up and taking notice
Jake Tapper: It’s escaped none of our notice that the White House has decided in the last few weeks to declare one of our sister organizations “not a news organization” and to tell the rest of us not to treat them like a news organization. Can you explain why it’s appropriate for the White House to decide that a news organization is not one – (Crosstalk)
Robert Gibbs: Jake, we render, we render an opinion based on some of their coverage and the fairness that, the fairness of that coverage.
Tapper: But that’s a pretty sweeping declaration that they are “not a news organization.” How are they any different from, say –
Gibbs: ABC --
Tapper: ABC. MSNBC. Univision. I mean how are they any different?
Gibbs: You and I should watch sometime around 9 o’clock tonight. Or 5 o’clock this afternoon.
Tapper: I’m not talking about their opinion programming or issues you have with certain reports. I’m talking about saying thousands of individuals who work for a media organization, do not work for a “news organization” — why is that appropriate for the White House to say?
Gibbs: That’s our opinion.
That was the exchange today between Jake Tapper of ABC News and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Tapper, of course, was referencing the ongoing battle between the Obama White House and Fox News Channel, the latest salvo in which included a charge by the White House that Fox News was “not a news organization.”
Gibbs’ conduct and candor is extremely telling. By specifically mentioning–by time slot–Glenn Beck’s 5:00 p.m. show and Sean Hannity’s 9:00 p.m. show, Gibbs was arguing that it was the network’s opinion shows which make Fox News “not a news organization,” and provide the root of the administration’s criticism.
Yet MSNBC and CNN have opinion shows as well. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer was fact-checking a Saturday Night Live parody of Barack Obama’s ineffectiveness, for crying out loud. And MSNBC has Keith Olbermann’s Countdown and Rachel Maddow’s eponymous program, not to mention Chris Matthews and his magical tingling loins. It’s only because Blitzer and Olbermann and Matthews and that lovely young man, Maddow, fawn over the administration and whitewash any bad performance or news that the White House is not denouncing those other news organizations as well.
Going after Fox News in such an overt manner is a big mistake for two reasons, especially considering the good faith efforts taken by Glenn Beck in particular to open up his opinion show to the White House for the purpose of fact-checking and correcting any mistakes.
First, the press protects its own, even among factions that fundamentally disagree on everything. The mainstream media may be in the tank for Barack Obama, but there’s only one thing the press values more than a far-left president — and that’s the freedom to do what they do. In that respect, to some degree media organizations are like NATO; blatant attacks on one will only be tolerated so much by the others. That’s why we see statements from people like David Gergen and Donna Brazile and others on CNN and MSNBC denouncing the White House’s continued war on a sister network.
Second, the political consequences could be devastating. David Carr of The New York Times is right to point out the historical context of administrations which have successfully engaged and prevailed over the media. He is also right to point out the practical consequences of the increased attention, noting that ratings at Fox News are up by 20 percent.
The current media environment is just as telling as are Robert Gibbs’ comments. The Boston Globe has been in epic financial trouble. The New York Times just today cut 150 jobs, and has stayed afloat in the past through shifts in its real estate holdings. The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News have declared bankruptcy. And ratings at MSNBC and CNN are plummeting. Conversely, talk radio audiences are expanding, and ratings at Fox News Channel have never been higher.
Most Americans who choose to pay attention and even get involved know when they’re being sold a bunch of nonsense. Most can tell, at some level, when they’re being obviously lied to, and when the shortcomings of this administration are being glossed over. We’re seeing that in the popularity of conservative and libertarian Web sites, as well as the ratings boom seen by talk radio and Fox. What we’re seeing from the White House is a group of people who simply cannot discern between campaigning and governance, and who are hastily going down the road to implosion.
And I, for one, will be waiting and watching. On Fox.