The Sunday talk shows yesterday continued to focus on the back and forth between the White House and Fox News. CNN’s Reliable Sources, ABC’s “This Week” and NBC’s “Meet the Press” all devoted segments to the issue, again highlighting recent comments from White House Communications Director Anita Dunn, specifically her statement, “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 discounting Fox News as a “legitimate” news organization.
We’ve posted the “Meet the Press” clip above. Host David Gregory cut straight to the chase at the beginning of the segment. “Why is the White House doing this, and is it working for them?” he asked. Panelist Tavis Smiley of PBS called it “a distraction.” TVNewser has the CNN and ABC segments.
The White House dispatched top officials to the Sunday morning talk shows yesterday. The conversation continued around WH Communications Director Anita Dunn‘s remarks last week in which she said in part, “Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party…Let’s not pretend they’re a news network the way CNN is.”
Senior Adviser David Axelrod appeared on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” while White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel was a guest on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Axelrod said of Fox News, “It’s not really news. It’s pushing a point of view. The bigger thing is that, other news organizations, like yours, ought not treat them that way…We’re going to appear on their shows, we’re going to participate.” TVNewser has video of both appearances.
The question for many is if “we’re going to appear on their shows” means President Obama or only administration officials. Obama’s last appearance on Fox News was a sitdown with Bill O’Reilly on September 4th, 2008.
The New York Times‘ media critic David Carrdevoted his column this week to the subject and wrote, “People who work in political communications have pointed out that it is a principle of power dynamics to “punch up” – that is, to take on bigger foes, not smaller ones. A blog on the White House Web site that uses a “truth-o-meter” against a particular cable news network would not seem to qualify.”
White House Director of Communications Anita Dunn took to Howie Kurtz’s Reliable Sources show on CNN this morning to elaborate on the new, more aggressive press strategy laid out by TIME magazine this week.
“The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party,” Dunn said.
Dunn confirmed this was the reason Obama didn’t not include Fox in his Sunday media blitz a few weeks ago.
The nine minute interview looked at difference between Fox’s opinion shows, and its news coverage. Kurtz read, and Dunn responded to the statement to that affect, issued by Fox’s SVP of News Michael Clemente on Friday.
The administration is fine with Fox White House Correspondent Major Garrett but not with the network’s use of talking points, opposition research, and misleading chyrons.
Dunn also gave Kurtz homework to do on what Fox is not covering: “Did you see coverage of that (the Senator Ensign scandal) on Fox News? I’m not talking Glenn Beck, Sean, the Factor, I’m talking Fox News.” “I will have to check on that,” Kurtz responded.
UPDATE: Fox News SVP Michael Clemente issued the following response: “An increasing number of viewers are relying on FOX News for both news and opinion. And the average news consumer can certainly distinguish between the A-section of the newspaper and the editorial page, which is what our programming represents. So, with all due respect to anyone who might still be confused about the difference between news reporting and vibrant opinion, my suggestion would be to talk about the stories and the facts, rather than attack the messenger…which over time, has never worked.”
The White House communications team is no longer taking prisoners when it comes to dealing with adversaries in the media. The administration, instead of just working through the media to fact check stories and statements, is going direct to the source.
The president approves the strategy, telling aides to “call ‘em out,” when it comes to “pundits, politicians and outlets that make what the White House believes to be misleading or simply false claims,” writes TIME‘s Michael Scherer in a story today, titled “Calling ‘Em Out: The White House Takes on the Press.”
“The general in this war is [Anita] Dunn, 51, a veteran campaign strategist who arrived at the White House in May. She has been a force in Democratic campaigns since the late 1980s and helmed Obama’s rapid-response operation during his run,” he wrote.
Dunn told TIME, “Here in the White House you are reluctant to feel like you have to go to that place, but we have to be more aggressive rather than just sit back and defend ourselves, because they will say anything. They will take any small thing and distort it.” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs used a baseball analogy. “The only way to get somebody to stop crowding the plate is to throw a fastball at them. They move,” he said.
President Barack Obama‘s five Sunday morning talk show interviews aired yesterday (after being filmed back to back from the White House Roosevelt Room on Friday). That leaves Obama with one major interview left in his latest media blitz: tonight the President will appear on “The Late Show With David Letterman.”
“He’s turning the presidency into an infomercial,” former White House speechwriter Matt Latimertold the New York Post.
The White House stood by their strategy. “In an increasingly fragmented audience that gets information from a number of different sources, putting a huge amount of his time behind one medium increases our ability to really break through and get a message out. The effect of one interview, given how rapidly the news environment moves, doesn’t last as long as it used to,” White House communications director Anita Dunntold the Washington Post‘s Howard Kurtz.
As is usual with any high profile interview, network PR teams rushed out transcripts with highlighted sound bites as early as Friday afternoon, hoping their respective interview would get the largest share of coverage.
The White House changed the rules on today’s briefing with reporters ahead of Barack Obama’s healthcare speech tonight. This morning, it was on the record, now David Axelrod and Communications Director Anita Dunn want it on background, and the information embargoed until the speech airs tonight.
The likely reason is: because they can. And, because they’re sitting on something they want the American public to hear without giving the press–and detractors on the Hill–six hours to digest and report.
FishbowlDC has the original email from this morning:
Today at 1:30 PM, Senior Advisor David Axelrod and Communications Director Anita Dunn will hold a discussion with reporters on tonight’s health care address. The discussion will be on the record and will last about 40 minutes.
Attendance is limited to one reporter per outlet.
Please let me know whom to expect from your outlet by replying to this email.
What: Discussion with David Axelrod and Anita Dunn
When: Today at 1:30 PM
Where: Roosevelt Room – please gather in upper press by 1:25.