Free Markets, Free People

Anita Dunn


White House Wants Compliant Press

I‘m still wondering what the upside is for the White House in this fight it is picking with Fox News.

We’ve seen Anita Dunn, White House communication’s director take them on, obviously at the behest of and at least with the tacit agreement, one assumes, of the President. After all, he’s been known to complain about Fox and theirs was the only Sunday show on which he refused to appear recently. Now we have David Axelrod throwing out the same nonsense:

White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday that the Fox News Channel is “not really a news station” and that much of the programming is “not really news.”

“I’m not concerned,” Axelrod said on ABC’s “This Week” when George Stephanopoulos asked about the back-and-forth between the White House and Fox News.

“Mr. [Rupert] Murdoch has a talent for making money, and I understand that their programming is geared toward making money. The only argument [White House communications director] Anita [Dunn] was making is that they’re not really a news station if you watch even — it’s not just their commentators, but a lot of their news programming.

Of course what that network covers are things that the other networks would prefer not to cover – the ACORN scandal being the most recent story they attempted to avoid. And Fox has presented the other side on the “health care reform” story – giving Republicans a voice in telling the story that they’re not afforded on the other news networks.

I’m sure this does indeed rankle the White House because Fox, unlike the rest of the media isn’t a compliant lap dog for the administration. It makes waves when it reports the other side.

And I love how Axlerod denigrates “making money” as if CNN and MSNBC are in the charity business – although compared to Fox, they may as well be.

The White House apparently feels it must marginalize Fox for a reason. And the only reason I can come up with is the White House feels it is hurting it’s agenda. To me the most telling remark about Fox came when Dunn said that when President Obama goes on Fox he believes he’s debating the opposition.

I thought that’s what all real journalists considered themselves – the opposition. Now, apparently, journalistic worth is measured by the White House as how compliant you are and how willing you are to carry water for them.

It isn’t Fox that should be ashamed.  It is CNN and MSNBC who, when referring to themselves, should find it more and more difficult to use the terms “news” and “journalism” with a straight face and without turning beet red with embarrassment.

~McQ


Not Smart …

In terms of any sort of media strategy, I really don’t get this - the White House has chosen to take on Fox News as some sort of enemy of the administration?  Why?

Anita Dunn, communications director at White House had this to say on CNN’s “Reliable Sources”:

“If we went back a year ago to the fall of 2008, to the campaign, that was a time this country was in two wars that we had a financial collapse probably more significant than any financial collapse since the Great Depression. If you were a Fox News viewer in the fall election what you would have seen were that the biggest stories and the biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and a something called ACORN.”

Now I have to admit not remembering it that way at all. What I do remember is that Fox was about the only news channel who mentioned Ayers or covered the ACORN shenanigans.

However, the “biggest stories” she complains about were mostly covered by opinion shows like Hannity, not the news arm of Fox. And I don’t think that Hannity has ever claimed to be anything but a conservative commentator. Finally, it seems that other news organizations should have been following ACORN a little more closely, given recent events.

Dunn goes on:

“The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. And it is not ideological… what I think is fair to say about Fox, and the way we view it, is that it is more of a wing of the Republican Party.”

“Obviously [the President] will go on Fox because he engages with ideological opponents. He has done that before and he will do it again… when he goes on Fox he understands he is not going on it as a news network at this point. He is going on it to debate the opposition.”

Translation: When he goes on Fox he’s likely to have journalists actually ask him hard and probing questions. When he goes on all the other networks, he expects softballs pitched by fawning sycophants. This explains why he avoided Fox when out doing his 5 Sunday show tour pitching health care.

“[Fox is] widely viewed as a part of the Republican Party: take their talking points and put them on the air, take their opposition research and put it on the air. And that’s fine. But let’s not pretend they’re a news organization like CNN is.”

This is simply stupid in terms of a strategy. You take on the most viewed cable news network, insult it, claim it’s not a news organization” and almost dare it to prove you wrong. Where could such an organization better prove itself than going after the White House? Sure, it might give Dunn and others more fodder for silly statements like those above, but it could also lead to some real problems if journalists actually get a bit mad about being characterized as shills for a political party. They may actually begin to dig for dirt, and as I’m watching this circus of an administration unfold, there is probably going to be a bunch of dirt to be dug.

I’m not sure what Dunn thought she’d accomplish with such statements, but they’re the type that can come back to haunt you. Smart people don’t purposely antagonize and insult news organizations. Sure they may feel exactly as she says they feel, but the only thing that happens when statements such as her’s are made public is to spur those who are insulted to prove her wrong. And one of the best ways to do that is to break some big stories that cast the administration in a bad light.

I suspect we can expect Fox to make such news a fairly big priority since the White House has declared war on it. You certainly can’t expect it from the other “news organizations” as they’ve all proven time and time again.

~McQ

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