On MSNBC’s Hardball last night, host Chris Matthews asked former White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan if he saw “FOX television as a tool” to get the White House’s “message out” while he was in the Bush administration. “Certainly there were commentators and other, pundits at FOX News, that were useful to the White House,” replied McClellan, adding that they were given “talking points.”
Making a distinction between journalists like Brit Hume and commentators like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly, McClellan admitted that “certainly” the White House used Fox News talking heads as “spokespeople” with “a script”:
MATTHEWS: So, you wouldn’t use Brit Hume to sell stuff for them, but you’d use some of the nighttime guys?
MCCLELLAN: Yeah, I would separate that out, and certainly I, you know, they’ll say, that’s because they agree with those views in the White House.
MATTHEWS: Well, they didn’t need a script though, did they?
MCCLELLAN: No, well, probably not.
McClellan later told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann that “it was done frequently, especially on high-profile issues” and that Fox often gave the White House “its desired results.” Current Press Secretary Dana Perino would only tell Olbermann, “I’m not aware of that.” Watch it:
Fox News’s close relationship to the Bush administration should come as no surprise to anyone, considering Fox’s Neil Cavuto once ran a segment asking if George W. Bush was “the best President.” But, as Olbermann notes, it “is one of those things you assumed to be true all along, yet you are shocked when the hard confirmation actually shows up on your door.”
Not only is Fox the network the White House turned to when Vice President Dick Cheney had to explain how he shot his friend in the face, but the network has also produced sympathetic documentaries on both Cheney and President Bush.