On Wednesday, Fox News’ Sean Hannity brought on former Bush White House adviser Karl Rove to gripe about ABC’s upcoming “Questions for the President: Prescription for America,” which will feature President Obama answering “questions offered by audience members ‘selected by ABC News who have divergent opinions’” on health care. Rove called it “unprecedented access to the White House and more importantly an unprecedented use of the White House.”
Last night, Rove was back on Fox News — this time with Greta Van Susteren — and argued that it was improper for ABC to get the access, considering that former ABC reporter Linda Douglass is now working in the White House:
ROVE: If it’s not crossing a line, it’s getting comfortably too close to a line of where a news network becomes a cooperating partner of and an adjacency to the White House communications shop. And I think the presence of a former ABC reporter as the communicator-in-chief inside the White House on this issue also raises questions about how it ended up in the hands of ABC.
It’s hard to take Rove’s outrage seriously. After all, Fox News’ Bret Baier received “unprecedented access” to the White House (as well as Air Force One and Bush’s ranch in Crawford, TX) in February 2008 for a “documentary” on President Bush. Baier said that the piece offered “a President Bush you’ve never seen before.”
In October 2007, Baier also hosted a special titled “Dick Cheney: No Retreat,” which was “a rare glimpse into the life of the vice president.” Of course, in the period leading up to Fox gaining such extraordinary access, who was the White House press secretary?
Tony Snow…who had previously worked for Fox News.
VAN SUSTEREN: First of all is I confess I would love to do it. I don’t get it. He doesn’t talk to FOX. That’s the first thing. The second thing is, is that, you know, we chased the first lady — former first lady around the Middle East on breast cancer awareness. Now, that wasn’t policy, but that was promoting, you know, a health program. But you know, we had a unique access, but anybody else who wanted to pay the freight, I guess, could have gone along, too, other — there were other empty seats there. Other networks could have.
And the third thing is, is, you know, the next day, we’re going to be doing everything the president hates because we’re going to be going over every single thing he says and challenge it. We’re going to have — you will probably be on and everybody else, and we’re going to have a chance to see what is it the president said. We finally get — you know, we get it laid out, and then we can take a look at it and scrutinize it.
ROVE: Yes. I have two points to make. First of all, we’ll be scrutinizing it the next day, but we won’t be scrutinize that night in front of the big audience that he’ll have having a primetime evening news program on a major network with a unique venue, the East Room of the White House. So he wins no matter what.
Second of all, this is my problem about it from the perspective of the president. He’s devaluing the White House. The White House ought to be used for big things, like major addresses to the country and press conferences and heralding the best of America. He’s turning it into a campaign backdrop. And eventually, it’s going to diminish the White House, as it’s going to diminish him.
I mean, he is in our face all of the time, and I’m not certain, from the White House perspective, that that’s necessarily a healthy thing. I do know that it’s devaluing the White House. And I also know that it’s extraordinary. Tell me one other major network that during any other big battle that a president did a similar kind of a thing. Did they do it when Bush was working for the tax cut or No Child Left Behind? Did they did it when Bill Clinton was trying to pass NAFTA, or trying to pass Hillarycare? Did they do it for Ronald Reagan when he was trying to pass his tax cuts? Did they do it for Jimmy Carter in any of his initiatives? No, this is really unusual, and I think it’s crossing a line.
If it’s not crossing a line, it’s getting comfortably too close to a line of where a news network becomes a cooperating partner of and an adjacency to the White House communications shop. And I think the presence of a former ABC reporter as the communicator-in-chief inside the White House on this issue also raises questions about how it ended up in the hands of ABC.