Tumblr Icon RSS Icon

Perino: Obama’s Criticism Of Fox Is Akin To Chavez’s Tactics, Sets A Bad Example For ‘Emerging Democracies’

By Amanda Terkel on October 25, 2009 at 2:41 pm

"Perino: Obama’s Criticism Of Fox Is Akin To Chavez’s Tactics, Sets A Bad Example For ‘Emerging Democracies’"

Share:

google plus icon

Today on Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace made sure to devote plenty of time to covering President Obama’s “war on Fox News”; he even played a clip of Sean Connery as Jim Malone “The Untouchables” talking about “the Chicago way” of getting things done. Former Bush press secretary Dana Perino sharply criticized the Obama administration’s tactics and expressed absolute shock at the example the United States was setting for “the free press in emerging democracies,” comparing the criticisms of Fox News to when “Hugo Chavez shuts down television stations”:

PERINO: That was a coordinated, calculated attack. It was unbecoming. And if you look at some of the coverage of what mainstream media covers when, for example, somebody like a Hugo Chavez shuts down television stations, he calls them illegitimate.

Now, I’m not suggesting that this White House believes that they are going to come over here and shut down Fox News. But they are defining a narrative in their first year, and it’s going to be very hard to recover from it. [...]

Through our State Department, we are trying to help emerging democracies get journalists and government officials to talk to one another, because freedom of the press is essential to any democracy. Believe me, they are watching this, and they have — surely are raising questions.

Watch it:

The Obama administration, according to Reporters Without Borders, is actually setting quite a strong example of press freedom for the world. In 2008, the organization found that in terms of press freedom, the U.S. ranked 36th out of 173 countries. Its report singled out “wars carried out in the name of the fight against terrorism” as a cause for the steep decline in press freedoms around the world. Just one year later, the United States has jumped from 36th to 20th. “Barack Obama’s election as president and the fact that he has a less hawkish approach than his predecessor have had a lot to do with this,” concluded Reporters Without Borders.

So what type of example did the Bush administration set? A few lowlights:

– The Pentagon had a secret program to use retired military analysts to “generate favorable news coverage of the administration’s wartime performance.” Most of these analysts had “ties to military contractors vested in the very war policies they are asked to assess on air.” When the “message machine” became public, Perino defended the program as “absolutely appropriate.”

– The U.S. military was “secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the U.S. mission in Iraq.” The articles contained anonymous quotes from U.S. military officials — which may or may not have been authentic — and “read more like press releases than news stories.”

– The Education Department paid conservative pundit Armstrong Williams hundreds of thousands of dollars to promote Bush’s No Child Left Behind law. Even after the corruption was uncovered, the administration defended it as “a permissible use of taxpayer funds.”

– The Government Accountability Office found that the Bush administration violated anti-propaganda laws when it disguised two promotional ads — on federal drug policy and Medicare — as news reports. The “reports” aired on dozens of stations, and the GAO “faulted the administration for distributing seemingly independent, ready-to-air reports that did not inform viewers that they came from the government.”

Bush also called a New York Times reporter “a major league asshole” — and never apologized. In fact, Bush never gave the NYT a single interview throughout his presidency. (Update: Bush gave the New York Times interviews in 2001, 2004, and 2005.) The White House frequently went after NBC News, and Perino has admitted that they essentially froze out MSNBC “towards the end.”

Transcript:

WALLACE: Enough. I’m tired of asking my wacky question. I want to turn to one last thing, and that is the latest chapter in the Obama White House’s war on Fox News and what some people are calling the administration’s Chicago way of doing business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEAN CONNERY AS JIM MALONE: He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Chicago way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WALLACE: That’s the Chicago way. You’ve got to love Sean Connery in that.

Dana, the latest chapter in the Chicago way was that the administration made an effort this week to use the White House pool — that’s the — all the five major networks — to try to exclude Fox from interviewing pay czar Ken Feinberg.

The White House now says, Well, it was just an honest mistake. Question: When you were in the Bush White House, did you ever try to do that against CBS when they were trashing President Bush? Or do you know of any White House that’s ever tried to use the White House pool to eliminate somebody, to kick somebody out?

PERINO: Certainly not with the pool. I mean, there are ways to exclude doing interviews with other networks, such as what happened to Fox News about four weeks ago when President Obama did all the other networks and decided not to do this one.

But you never use the pool. It’s a huge no-no. And I was glad to see that the reporters in the — in the room decided to stand up and have solidarity, because they could be next in this Chicago-style way.

WALLACE: And what do you make — it was happening as we were on the air a week ago today — of Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod going on other Sunday talk shows and, in effect, lecturing the mainstream media Fox is not a legitimate news organization and don’t follow them?

PERINO: That was a coordinated, calculated attack. It was unbecoming. And if you look at some of the coverage of what mainstream media covers when, for example, somebody like a Hugo Chavez shuts down television stations, he calls them illegitimate.

Now, I’m not suggesting that this White House believes that they are going to come over here and shut down Fox News. But they are defining a narrative in their first year, and it’s going to be very hard to recover from it.

The best thing they could do is try to find a way to, you know, give a — send out an olive branch, try to get this behind them and to move on.

WALLACE: You were telling me earlier — and we’ve only got about 45 seconds left — that you deal with the free press in emerging democracies and you worry about the message being sent.

PERINO: Every — everyone across the world watches and listens to everything that the White House is saying.

Through our State Department, we are trying to help emerging democracies get journalists and government officials to talk to one another, because freedom of the press is essential to any democracy. Believe me, they are watching this, and they have –surely are raising questions.

And the next time we go to them and say, You want to make sure that you have reporters covering this, they’ll say, Why should we do that? You don’t.

WALLACE: Thank you, Dana.

‹ PREVIOUS
Former Fox News contributor: I left the network because I was ‘uncomfortable’ with Glenn Beck.

NEXT ›
ThinkFast: October 26, 2009

By clicking and submitting a comment I acknowledge the ThinkProgress Privacy Policy and agree to the ThinkProgress Terms of Use. I understand that my comments are also being governed by Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, or Hotmail’s Terms of Use and Privacy Policies as applicable, which can be found here.