Shortly after the White House declared “war” on Fox’s news division last month, calling it an arm of the Republican Party and attempting to freeze it out of a pooled press briefing, pundits on both the left and the right cried foul, summoning up comparisons to Richard Nixon’s paranoid, vindictive presidency and based on the transcript of a Nixon tape below that comparison is very justified:
Nixon Tapes Transcript
December 11, 1972
President Richard Nixon: Hi Ron
Press Secretary Ron Ziegler: Yes Mr. President.
Ziegler: I just talked to Connie. She fully understands the Washington Post, uhh, situation. There was no reporter today at the uhh, at the uhh, uhh, ceremony. There was a photographer there. But, apparently they, uhh, screwed up on their desk assignment today and uhh, there was no reporter present, from the Post.
Nixon: I want it clearly understood that from now on, ever, no reporter from the Washington Post is ever to be in the White House. Is that clear?
Ziegler: Yes sir. In the briefings here, but…
Nixon: Not at briefings
Ziegler: But, n..
Nixon: But never, never in the White House. No church service, nothing with Mrs. Nixon does. You tell Connie don’t tell Mrs. Nixon, because she’ll approve it. No reporter from the Washington Post is ever to be in the White House again. And no photographer either. And no photographer. Is that clear?
Ziegler: Yes sir.
Nixon: None ever is to be in. Now that is a total order. And, and if necessary I’ll fire you. Do you understand?
Ziegler: I do understand.
Nixon: Okay, alright, good, thank you.
History does indeed repeat itself
The White House has not been happy about Fox’s relentless pursuit of the truth, unlike the rest of the mainstream media Fox has covered ALL the news including tea party rallies, anti-health care reform town halls, ACORN’s missteps and White House adviser Van Jones’ unveiling as a radical Marxist 9/11 “truther.”
In September, Obama froze out “Fox News Sunday” with Chris Wallace after appearing on five other Sunday shows to tout health care reform. Then, on Oct. 11, Anita Dunn, White House Communications director, went on rival cable news channel CNN to declare “the reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party,” a sentiment echoed by presidential adviser David Axelrod, who said “they’re not really a news station.”
Recently there have been rumors of a pending truce, but the White House seems to be ratcheting up the battle. There are reports the White House is telling Democratic Political Strategists do not appear on Fox–or else:
White House: FOX off-limits — strategist
by Peter Nicholas
At least one Democratic political strategist has gotten a blunt warning from the White House to never appear on Fox News Channel, an outlet that presidential aides have depicted as not so much a news-gathering operation as a political opponent bent on damaging the Obama administration.
Political consultants are a staple of cable television talk shows, analyzing current events based on their own experiences working on campaigns or in government.
One Democratic strategist said that shortly after an appearance on Fox he got a phone call from a White House official telling him not to be a guest on the show again. The call had an intimidating tone, he said.
The message was, “We better not see you on again,” said the strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity so as not to run afoul of the White House. An implicit suggestion, he said, was that “clients might stop using you if you continue.”
In urging Democratic consultants to spurn Fox, White House officials might be trying to isolate the network and make it appear more partisan.
A boycott by Democratic strategists could also help drive the White House narrative that Fox is a fundamentally different creature than the other TV news networks. For their part, White House officials appear on Fox News — but sporadically and with “eyes wide open,” as one aide put it.
David Plouffe, the president’s campaign manager and author of a new campaign book, The Audacity to Win, was scheduled to appear on Fox’s On the Record with Greta Van Susteren last night as he promotes his book. His appearance, pre-empted by the breaking news of the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, has been rescheduled for Monday.
White House Communications Director Anita Dunn said Thursday night that she had checked with colleagues who “deal with TV issues” and they had not told people to avoid Fox. On the contrary, they had urged people to appear on the network, Dunn wrote in an email.
But Patrick Caddell, a Fox News contributor and a former pollster for Democratic President Jimmy Carter, said he has spoken to Democratic consultants who have been told by the White House to avoid appearances on Fox. He declined to give their names.
Caddell said he had not gotten that message himself from the White House. “They know better than to tell me anything like that,” he said.
Caddell added: “I have heard that they’ve done that to others in not too subtle ways. I find it appalling. When the White House gets in the business of suppressing dissent and comment, particularly from its own party, it hurts itself.”
The White House has taken an aggressive stance toward Fox. When President Obama appeared on five separate talk shows one Sunday in September, he avoided Fox.
“It would be foolish for us to just treat it like it’s CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS,” said a White House aide. “That doesn’t make any sense. That would be like saying we’re going to do [interviews] with the news magazines and we’re going to do Time, Newsweek and the [conservative] National Review.”
The aide spoke on condition of anonymity to talk more openly about the White House’s thinking.
Last month, Dunn told CNN that Fox was, in effect, an “arm” of the Republican Party. Dunn said in an appearance on the rival cable network: “Let’s not pretend they’re a news network the way CNN is.”
As the dustup played out, Fox’s senior vice president of news, Michael Clemente, countered: “Surprisingly, the White House continues to declare war on a news organization instead of focusing on the critical issues that Americans are concerned about like jobs, health care and two wars. ”
Fox’s commentators have been sharply critical of the Obama administration. After the president won the Nobel Peace Prize, Sean Hannity, who has a prime-time show on Fox, said he got the award for “trashing America.”
The two sides seemed interested in easing tensions. On Oct. 28, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs met privately with Clemente.
But White House aides haven’t changed their underlying view of Fox.
Fox’s audience is by far the largest of the cable networks, with an average of more than 2.1 million viewers in prime-time this year. CNN is second with 932,000 prime-time viewers.
Fox’s viewership is not what worries the White House, though. More troubling to White House aides is that other news organizations may uncritically follow stories that Fox has showcased.
The White House aide said: “Where some of the falsehoods become dangerous is when the rest of the media accepts them as fact and reports on them, either out of a desire to tap into Fox’s news audience – which you can understand, given where circulation and viewership rates are – or as some sort of knee-jerk fear of being considered liberally biased, which is what conservatives have been saying of the mainstream media for years.”
The White House’s pugnacious approach to the network leaves some Democrats troubled.
Don Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chairman, said in an interview: “This approach is out of sync with my conception of what the Obama administration stands for and what they’re trying to do. I think they’ll think better of it and this will be a passing phase.”