One shouldn’t underestimate the significance of yesterday's pushback by the members of the White House news pool over the exclusion of Fox News from the interview process with pay czar Kenneth Feinberg. The unanimous decision of members of the pool (ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CNN) to refuse any interviews without Fox’s presence had the White House quickly and dramatically reversing course. The announcement of the backdown came late in Bret Baier’s evening news segment on FNC. It was announced without acrimony, and without comment. There was no gloating. But all present with Baier realized its import. That the pliable media, so long in the bag for Obama, saw a bigger issue: the freedom of the press. And they stood firm.
The crisis reached its peak starting two weeks ago after a month of warfare against Fox News. Anita Dunn declared Fox News was “a wing of the Republican Party,” and was “opinion journalism masquerading as journalism.” Finally this past Sunday and Monday, senior White House officials in an unprecedented effort to emasculate a media organization, told the media they should ignore Fox.
From a Fox News report:
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel told CNN on Sunday [October 18] that President Obama does not want "the CNNs and the others in the world [to] basically be led in following Fox." Obama senior adviser David Axelrod went further by calling on media outlets to join the administration in declaring that Fox is "not a news organization. Other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way," Axelrod counseled ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "We're not going to treat them that way."
On Tuesday at a White House press conference, press secretary Gibbs continued the theme started by Emmanuel and Axelrod. But he was challenged by Jake Tapper of ABC News, one of the few willing to directly confront the administration.
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 …?
Gibbs of course refused to concede Tapper’s point. But then the warfare escalated even further as Obama himself joined the fray in an interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. From Fox News:
On Wednesday, Obama, speaking publicly for the first time about his administration's portrayal of Fox News as illegitimate, said he's not "losing sleep" over the controversy. "I think that what our advisers simply said is, is that we are going to take media as it comes," Obama said when asked about his advisers targeting the network openly. "And if media is operating, basically, as a talk radio format, then that's one thing. And if it's operating as a news outlet, then that's another. But it's not something I'm losing a lot of sleep over."
All of this was not only to marginalize Fox, but to set the stage to ensure the press pool would do the White House’s dirty work to exclude Fox. It didn’t work out that way.
But there is more at play than just Fox. The ACORN story was the first challenge to the media’s blackout strategy that “got legs.” I have written here, here and here about what appears to be a coordinated effort by the major media to deny coverage of stories antithetical to liberal/Democrat interests. Thanks to two young and courageous individuals, Andy Breitbart and Fox News, the media was stung in their attempt to hide the story. And that was in particular Breitbart’s aim.
But an interesting thing is happening. AP did cover the latest O’Keefe/Giles tapes of the Philadelphia ACORN office, as did many metro dailies. AP in particular is now covering stories that were untouchable in the past, as is the Washington Post. Surely the White House is noticing it. And with their thuggish tactics, they are trying intimidate the media back into line.