Following Drudge, media compare Obama to Nixon, cite purported "enemies list"

››› ››› MATT GERTZ

After Matt Drudge posted the headline "ENEMIES LIST: WHITE HOUSE PLOTS LIMBAUGH COVERAGE" on his website, several media figures -- including Rush Limbaugh, Lou Dobbs, Tony Blankley, and Newt Gingrich -- advanced Drudge's claim that Obama, like President Nixon, had an "enemies list," or compared the Obama White House to the Nixon administration.

By 10:45 a.m. ET on March 4, Internet gossip Matt Drudge posted the headline "ENEMIES LIST: WHITE HOUSE PLOTS LIMBAUGH COVERAGE" on his website. The article to which Drudge's headline linked, posted March 4 on Politico, reported that "[t]op Democrats" were "depicting Rush Limbaugh as the new face of the Republican Party, a full-scale effort first hatched by some of the most familiar names in politics and now being guided in part from inside the White House," but did not use the term "enemies list." Following Drudge's headline, several media figures -- including Limbaugh himself, CNN host Lou Dobbs, syndicated columnist Tony Blankley, and Fox News contributor Newt Gingrich -- have advanced Drudge's claim that Obama, like President Nixon, had an "enemies list," or compared the Obama White House to the Nixon administration.

After the Drudge post:

  • Discussing the Politico article on the March 4 edition of his radio show, Limbaugh addressed Obama: "So you have no excuses. Your flunkies are demanding this debate. Your flunkies are targeting a private citizen with an enemies list that so far has three or four names on it: mine, [CNBC on-air editor] Rick Santelli, Jim Cramer at CNBC, and let's not forget Joe the Plumber, who your allies in Ohio also tried to destroy." Limbaugh later added:

It's amazing. In 1972, Richard Nixon had an enemies list, and the media was outraged by this. They were -- at the same time, those that weren't on it were a little jealous. But they were outraged that a president would engage in this kind of behavior toward the media. Now, they go after a private citizen. Rahm Emanuel leading the team, going after a private citizen, and the drive-by media applaud, get on board, and help further the mission. We live in different times.

  • On the March 4 edition of CNN's The Situation Room, Dobbs teased his then-upcoming show by stating that "the Obama administration and left-wing groups launching a concerted campaign targeting radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh -- a one-man enemies list." Later the same evening, on Lou Dobbs Tonight, Dobbs said to Democratic strategist and CNN contributor Robert Zimmerman, "What in the world are your friends James Carville, Paul Begala -- my gosh, a cabal at the Obama White House going after Rush Limbaugh. It's a -- I mean, that's an enemy's list, and you put him right on the top? If this were the Nixon era, would you not be blushing with shame?
  • On the March 4 edition of CNN's Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull, Blankley said of the Politico article: "This is much closer to the Nixon enemies list than it is to a giggling moment."
  • As Media Matters for America documented, asked about the White House's "strategy" on the March 5 edition of NBC's Today, Gingrich said that "it reminds me of the Nixon White House, and I think that as long as Rahm Emanuel is there, he's sort of the Haldeman of this administration." Nixon chief of staff H.R. Haldeman was convicted of conspiracy and obstruction of justice for his role in the Watergate scandal.

Additionally, responding to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs' criticism of his claim that Obama had engaged in "the most, greatest wealth destructive I've seen by a president," in a March 5 MainStreet.com article, CNBC Mad Money host Jim Cramer wrote:

Now some, including Rush Limbaugh, would say I am on another enemies list: that of the White House. Limbaugh says there are only a handful of us on it, and if I am on it for defending all of the shareholders out there, then I am in good company. Limbaugh -- whom I do not know personally, but having been in radio myself, know professionally as a genius of the medium -- says, "They're going to shut Cramer up pretty soon, too, but he'll go down with a fight."

Screen capture of The Drudge Report on March 4 at 10:44:34 a.m. ET:

From the March 4 edition of Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: So you have no excuses. Your flunkies are demanding this debate. Your flunkies are targeting a private citizen with an enemies list that so far has three or four names on it: mine, Rick Santelli, Jim Cramer at CNBC, and let's not forget Joe the Plumber, who your allies in Ohio also tried to destroy. The difference is that Joe the Plumber does not have his own microphone every day. They're shutting Santelli up at CNBC. They're going to shut Cramer up pretty soon too, but he'll go down with a fight. But that isn't going to happen here to me. I'm calling. I'm ready. I'll do everything I can to facilitate it.

You're a very courageous man, Mr. President, and I am, after all, just the last man standing. If you take me out, if you can wipe me out in a debate and prove to the rest of America that what I say is senseless and wrong, you realize you will own the United States of America. You will have no opposition. You have America's media in your back pocket. It's amazing. In 1972, Richard Nixon had an enemies list, and the media was outraged by this. They were -- at the same time, those that weren't on it were a little jealous. But they were outraged that a president would engage in this kind of behavior toward the media. Now, they go after a private citizen. Rahm Emanuel leading the team, going after a private citizen, and the drive-by media applaud, get on board, and help further the mission. We live in different times.

From the March 4 edition of CNN's The Situation Room:

DOBBS: Coming up at the top of the hour, we'll be reporting on President Obama's struggle to convince Americans that his economic policies will work. Americans increasingly concerned about bigger government, globalization, and the president's tax, borrow, and spend policies. One of the country's best economic thinkers, Niall Ferguson, joins us with his perspective.

Also, troubling new evidence of Wall Street's efforts to buy influence in Washington. And it's paying off. They spent $5 billion in a decade. They got back trillions. We'll have a special report, "The Best Government Money Can Buy."

And the Obama administration and left-wing groups launching a concerted campaign targeting radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh -- a one-man enemies list. Two leading political analysts join us to talk about whether this campaign will backfire on the Obama White House.

From the March 4 edition of CNN's Lou Dobbs Tonight:

DOBBS: The usual characters from the left blasting Rush Limbaugh. Coincidence, or Democratic strategy? Why that strategy? Is it smart? Perhaps not. We'll be talking about that with our panel of political analysts. Stay with us.

[...]

DOBBS: Joining me now, two of the best political analysts in the country -- Democratic strategist, CNN contributor, Robert Zimmerman. Robert, good to see you. Ron Christie, former adviser to President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Ron is president of Christie Strategies. Ron, great to have you with us.

CHRISTIE: Thanks, Lou.

DOBBS: I've got to start with you, Robert. What in the world are your friends James Carville, Paul Begala -- my gosh, a cabal at the Obama White House going after Rush Limbaugh. It's a -- I mean, that's an enemy's list, and you put him right on the top? If this were the Nixon era, would you not be blushing with shame?

From the March 4 edition of CNN's Campbell Brown: No Bias, No Bull:

CAMPBELL BROWN (host): And, Tony, we know you're a Rush fan.

BLANKLEY: Yes.

BROWN: But explain to us again why this helps the Republican Party.

BLANKLEY: Well, actually, I wanted -- I think this story has taken a different twist today with the Politico story, presumably sourced by the White House or by Carville or Begala or somebody. The Politico story said that this has been a project to demonize him. That was the word that was used in the Politico story, to demonize --

ROLAND MARTIN (CNN contributor): That's not a new story.

BLANKLEY: It was a Politico -- it was a new story at Politico. You had quotes from the chief of staff to the president of the United States saying they have been waiting to try to get him and demonize him. They have -- you have the president's own words a week or two ago when he talked about people should stop watching him. If this were a Republican administration, if Karl Rove were being quoted trying to demonize a prominent Democratic liberal, I think you would have a scandal on your hands.

[crosstalk]

MARTIN: It happens all the time, Tony.

BLANKLEY: And them going out on Politico and bragging about it strikes me as --

MARTIN: Democrats --

BROWN: But Tony's right. I mean, it's --

MARTIN: -- Tony, Democrats have been demonizing Rush for 10 years.

BROWN: -- there's no question Democrats are pushing the story.

GLORIA BORGER (CNN senior political analyst): Oh, yeah.

MARTIN: They've been demonizing Rush for 10 years. This is not new.

BROWN: There's no doubt Democrats --

BLANKLEY: Well, the Politico thought it was big enough to be the biggest story, news story of the day. You have quote from Rahm Emanuel himself, talking about the intent to demonize a very prominent private citizen, Rush Limbaugh. I don't think that's a giggling story.

[crosstalk]

BROWN: Gloria, you go ahead. Last word.

BORGER: There's no doubt that this works for the Democrats, or Rahm Emanuel wouldn't have come out last Sunday and talked about Rush Limbaugh being the de facto leader of the Republican Party. They're trying to point to the vacuum of leadership at the top of the Republican Party, which happens to any party when it's out of power and doesn't have the presidency.

BLANKLEY: This is much closer to the Nixon enemies list than it is to a giggling moment.

MARTIN: Oh, Tony.

BROWN: All right. OK.

MARTIN: Tony, Republicans demonize --

BLANKLEY: I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I don't believe the media would cover this story the same way --

BROWN: All right --

[crosstalk]

MARTIN: Tony -- Tony, Republicans demonize The New York Times --

BROWN: Guys, guys, gotta end it there --

MARTIN: -- Republicans demonize The New York Times. Democrats demonize Rush. That's what they do. Stop it.

BROWN: And on that note, thank you. Roland, Tony, Gloria, appreciate it as always, guys.

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