FOR THE WEEK OF NOV. 02, 2009
White House and Fox News dispute what's fair, what's foul
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President Obama, who has played basketball since high school, sometimes describes challenges in sports terms -- as do top aides. So when White House press secretary Robert Gibbs explains high-level criticism of the Fox News cable network, he puts it this way: "The best analogy is probably baseball. The only way to get somebody to stop crowding the plate is to throw a fastball at them. They move."
What Obama's team throws at Fox are accusations of deliberate health care reform distortions, encouragement of "tea party" protests and partisan propaganda in news reports. "Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party," top aide Anita Dunn said recently. "They misrepresent our programs and policies. . . . And they were organizing political opposition on their shows. We wanted to set the record straight."
The White House is the target of daily shots by Fox commentators and some anchors -- notably prime-time stars Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Tucker Carlson. Beck claimed Obama has "a deep-seated hatred of white people" and several hosts regularly suggest White House policies reflect socialist or communist approaches at times.
For its part, the top-rated cable network has gained more viewers -- at least temporarily -- and welcomes the role of underdog fighting a "smear" by a powerful adversary. "This is an effort in effect to quarantine Fox News and to discourage other media outlets from picking up on stories that originate here," senior political analyst Brit Hume said on O'Reilly's show. "My guess is it won't work." Hannity labeled his program "Not White House approved," and O'Reilly hammers the White House nightly. "There is something very disturbing about the Obama administration fighting harder against Fox News than against the Taliban," he said in one commentary.
Network owner Rupert Murdoch says the criticism is "not something I'm losing a lot of sleep over." Still, a possible truce or at least "peace talks" may be under way. Press secretary Gibbs met privately at the White House last week with a Fox News senior vice-president. Both kept mum afterward.
Fox says: "We're doing the job we're supposed to be doing, and we do it as well as anyone." -- Michael Clemente, senior vice president for news and editorial programming
White House says: "We simply decided to stop abiding by the fiction, which is aided and abetted by the mainstream press, that Fox is a traditional news organization." -- Dan Pfeiffer, deputy communications director
Columnist says: "Fox hasn't just corrupted its own coverage. Its example has made all of cable news unpleasant and unreliable." -- Jacob Weisberg, author and Newsweek contributor
Front Page Talking Points
is written by
Alan Stamm for NIEonline.com, Copyright 2013
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