Back in October 2009 the White House received a major league bitch slap as it tried to escalate its censorship of Fox News but received no cooperation from the other networks. On Special Report host Bret Bair told the story of Obama’s foolishness:
“Today there was an announcement by the administration,” Baier said. “They were putting out the pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg, as we showed you earlier for the White House pool – that Feinberg would be doing a round-robin interviews with the five-network pool that covers the White House – basically shares the costs and the daily coverage duties of covering the president.
The press pool is made up of the 5 major news organizations including CNN, ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX. FOX has been a member of the White House press pool since 1997.
Officials invited the entire press corps to the round robin interview process with the express exception of FOX News. The Washington Bureau Chiefs of all of the 5 major networks consulted. The group agreed that if FOX were not allowed to participate, that they would boycott the interview with Feinberg in protest.
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While the White House said the exclusion of Fox was not meant as a slight against the News Network, the Feinberg incident seemed like a continuation of the administrations “Wag The Fox” policy White House communications director Anita Dunn said that Fox is “opinion journalism masquerading as news.” Patting rival networks on the head for their authenticity, senior adviser David Axelrod declared Fox “not really a news station.” And Chief of Staff Emanuel told (warned?) the other networks not to “be led [by] and following Fox.”
Judicial Watch published today documents from the Obama Department of Treasury showing that the Obama administration, contrary to its repeated denials, deliberately attempted to exclude the Fox News Channel from the a round of interviews with Pay Czar Kenneth Feinberg.
The documents, which include email exchanges within the Department of the Treasury and between Treasury and White House staff, also provide colorful evidence of an anti-Fox News bias within the Obama White House.
The documents, obtained last week by Judicial Watch pursuant to an October, 28, 2009, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, concern a series of interviews with Feinberg, who served as the Special Master for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) Executive Compensation, on October 22, 2009, organized by the Treasury Department. According to press reports, the Fox News Channel was specifically excluded from joining the pool of reporters which precipitated a backlash among the networks and a reversal by the Obama Treasury Department
The Treasury Department’s official response, as detailed in back-and-forth emails uncovered by Judicial Watch, included a clear denial of any such plot to exclude Fox News from the interviews: “There was no plot to exclude Fox News, and they had the same interview that their competitors did. Much ado about absolutely nothing.” Moreover, in an October 23, 2009 email to one reporter (name redacted), Jake Siewart, Counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, repeated the denial that there was an effort to exclude Fox News Channel: “Call me today on your Fox-Treasury report,” Siewart wrote. “Not true that there was an ‘effort to exclude’ Fox.”
That was the public position, internal Obama administration emails prove that that FNC was specifically singled out for exclusion.
According to one October 22, 2009, email exchange between Dag Vega, Director of Broadcast Media on the White House staff, to Jenni LeCompte, then-Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs in the Treasury Department, Vega informs LeCompte that “…we’d prefer if you skip Fox please.”
Regarding general anti-FNC bias within the Obama White House in an October 23, 2009, email exchange between Jennifer Psaki, Deputy White House Communications Director and LeCompte, Psaki writes, “I am putting some dead fish in the fox cubby – just cause”. In an email on the night of October 22, 2009, commenting on a report by Fox News Channel anchor Bret Baier noting the exclusion of the network from the pool, Psaki writes to Compte and fellow White House colleagues, “…brett baier just did a stupid piece on it — but he is a lunatic”.
Deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest bluntly described the White House’s position on Fox News Channel in an October 23, 2009, email to LeCompte: “We’ve demonstrated our willingness and ability to exclude Fox News from significant interviews…”
This is a clear indication that the White House has been doing its best to subvert the first amendment, not only trying to control what is said on news, but to control who delivers the news.
“The Obama administration seems to have lied about its attempt to exclude Fox News Channel from access to an interview with the ‘pay czar.’ These documents show there is a pervasive anti-Fox bias in the Obama White House,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The juvenile Mafioso-talk in these emails has no place in any White House. For the Obama administration to purposely exclude a major news organization from access to information has troubling First Amendment implications.”
But progressive politics and the first amendment do not mix well.