Last weekend, top White House officials escalated its campaign to distance Fox News from the ethical standards of journalism. “It’s not really a news organization,” senior adviser David Axelrod said. Yesterday during the White House press gaggle, ABC’s Jake Tapper came to Fox’s defense, asking, “Why is that appropriate for the White House to say?” “You and I should watch sometime around 9 o’clock tonight. Or 5 o’clock this afternoon,” press secretary Robert Gibbs said, referring to Fox programs hosted by Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck.
Last night, Fox host Greta Van Susteren seemed pleased that Gibbs narrowed down the criticism. “I’m grateful that now they’ve at least refined it to two hours,” she said. But former top Bush adviser Karl Rove was incensed, complaining that “people would go nuts” if President Bush attacked NBC or the New York Times:
ROVE: I mean, imagine what would have happened if President Bush had said, “You know what, I’m not going to — I’m going to call NBC not a news organization because, well, MSNBC has some ugly left- wing opinion programming”? I mean, people would go nuts.
What would happen if somebody said, “You know what, the people who are working for The New York Times are not journalists because on the opinion page of The New York Times there are very liberal journalists and very liberal editorials?” I mean, people would be up in arms.
Rove must have a short memory. The Bush administration’s war with the New York Times started even before Bush assumed office. As a candidate, Bush called a Times reporter “a major league asshole,” and never apologized. In fact, President Bush
never gave the New York Times a single interview throughout his presidency. (Update: Bush gave the New York Times interviews in 2001, 2004, and 2005.)
The Bush White House’s war with NBC News is more well known. In May 2008, then-White House counselor Ed Gillespie publicly sent a scathing letter to NBC News President Steve Capus, accusing them of deceptive editing and blurring the lines between “news” and “opinion.” Soon after, then-White House press secretary Dana Perino expounded upon the campaign against NBC from the White House podium:
PERINO: The reason that we sent the letter yesterday is because we had gotten fed up with the way that the President’s policies are being mischaracterized, or the situations on the ground weren’t being accurately reflected in the reporting. We had complained before. And it just reached a boiling point.
And indeed, Fox News did “go nuts”…in support of the White House.