Fox Nation and right-wing blogs invent dubious victory in war on "czars"
Blog ››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN
The Fox Nation is currently highlighting a November 6 Red State post titled "Another Czar Bites the Dust" that claims that "Internet Czar" (actually, special assistant to the president for science, technology, and innovation policy) Susan Crawford was the latest "body tossed under the insatiable Obama bus."
So according to the active imaginations of right-wing bloggers, the announcement that Crawford will leave the White House (sometime in January) is their latest victory in the Fox-led witch hunt against supposed "czars." The only problem with that theory is that there isn't any evidence that it's true, and there is significant evidence that it's not.
The Washington Post first reported Crawford's planned departure in an October 27 piece that undermines the right-wing media's narrative of a "czar" forced to resign amidst growing public outcry. According to the Post, "Crawford will leave her position in January to return to the University of Michigan Law School where she is a tenured professor, according to the Obama administration." The Post reported that Crawford "has been on temporary leave from the university to serve in the White House" but that her "sabbatical, which began two months after she received tenure at the University of Michigan, will end in January." The Post quoted an Obama spokesperson saying:
Susan has done an outstanding job coordinating technology policy at the National Economic Council where her expertise on issues from intellectual property to the Internet has been invaluable. ... We understand that she needs to return to her responsibilities in Ann Arbor, but we will miss having her wise counsel in the White House.
So what evidence do right-wing media have that the Post report is wrong or that the Obama administration is lying about why Crawford is leaving? Well, the Red State post that Fox Nation highlights cites two sources: a November 2 "Washington Prowler" column in The American Spectator and a November 5 post on Andrew Breitbart's Big Government blog, which in turn cites only the Spectator column. And here's what the Spectator claims:
Crawford resigned, citing the need to return to her tenured position at the University of Michigan law school, but White House sources say that when Crawford signed on to the administration, she told them the university had given her a two-year waiver before requiring a return. "There may have been miscommunication there, but we thought it was two years," says the White House source. Similar waivers -- usually two or three years -- were given to a number of academics who joined the Bush Administration in various positions back in 2001.
Crawford's exit comes at a time when some Obama Administration aides, after seeing the fallout from the resignation of Van Jones and the spotlight placed on leftists inside the administration, like Anita Dunn, wonder if it is too late to pull back many of the more radical aides now placed in a number of different cabinet level departments, including the Department of Justice, and the Energy and Education departments, and federal agencies. "They haven't done us any good on any level," says the White House aide. "And now they are just a bunch of targets on our back that we can't shake."
So that's it. A right-wing gossip column claims to have somehow obtained a statement from an anonymous "White House source" saying something that appears to contradict what the White House is telling actual journalists.
As any regular reader of the Spectator knows, however, highly improbable anonymous quotes are a staple of the Washington Prowler column. For example, "Allahpundit," a conservative writer for Michelle Malkin's Hot Air blog, has made the following observations about the reliability of the Prowler's reporting:
- "Another day, another anonymous left-wing source who knows someone who might have overheard something at a party somewhere in DC quoted in the Prowler ... A reader reminds me that the Prowler once quoted an unnamed 'Republican leadership staffer' as blaming Harry Reid for that Terri Schiavo memo that turned out to have been written by one of Mel Martinez's staffers. Read the quotes; see if they sound any more realistic to you than the quote in today's piece." [Hotair.com, 10/10/06]
- "I never know how seriously to take the Prowler ..." [Hotair.com, 9/24/06]
- "[T]his comes from the Prowler, which has an amazing knack - which I've noticed before - for squeezing hypercynical, Snidely Whiplash-ish comments out of unnamed Democrats revealing their sinister political motives. Try this one on for size ... Totally implausible? Nope. But just a tad more menacing than you'd expect a Democrat to be when talking, even anonymously, to a conservative publication like the Spectator. Believe what you like." [Hotair.com, 10/8/07]
- "Too juicy not to post, too sketchy to take very seriously. It's the Prowler, guys. Caveat emptor. ... Unusually menacing, fluidly articulate quotes from anonymous Democrats are a hallmark of Prowler items, especially those having to do with the Fairness Doctrine, but there's a grain of plausibility here." [Hotair.com, 2/16/09]
There's another apparent problem with Fox Nation's latest tale. The Washington Post first reported Crawford's planned departure the evening of Tuesday, October 27. But Glenn Beck -- who had criticized Crawford a couple times in the past, and who was on the air that entire week -- never declared victory. He never even mentioned on Fox News that she planned to step down. In fact, a Nexis search reveals no examples of anyone on Fox News discussing Crawford's departure.
If this really was the great right-wing victory Fox Nation now wants us to believe it was, wouldn't Fox News hosts have mentioned it two weeks ago?