Attack on White House criticism of Fox follows years of GOP assaults on media

››› ››› MEDIA MATTERS STAFF

Following White House communications director Anita Dunn's entirely justified criticisms of Fox News as an "arm" of the Republican Party, conservative media figures have attacked both Dunn and the Obama administration. But Media Matters for America has compiled a list of organized attacks that GOP leaders -- often aided by Fox News -- have conducted against media outlets based on groundless complaints of bias; those attacks have included boycotts or threatened boycotts of media outlets, efforts to revoke journalists' credentials or ban them from press planes, and even calls to have journalists prosecuted.

In 2001, DeLay reportedly boycotted CNN

In 2002, GOP leadership reportedly threatened or engaged in Crossfire boycott

In 2004, NY Times reporters were excluded from Air Force Two

In 2006, GOP House members sought punishment, possible prosecution of NY Times

In 2008, Bush counselor Gillespie attacked NBC

In 2008, McCain campaign repeatedly attacked press, banned or threatened to ban journalists from campaign plane and bus

In wake of Dunn comments, conservative media attack Dunn, White House

In 2001, DeLay reportedly boycotted CNN

In 2001, news outlets variously reported that former Rep. Tom DeLay personally or congressional conservative Republicans generally were engaged in a boycott of CNN. Around that time, CNN president Walter Isaacson met with congressional Republican leaders to hear their "concerns" about purported liberal bias at CNN, and CNN reportedly courted Rush Limbaugh for a show.

Roll Call: In 2001, DeLay "suggested a boycott" of CNN and personally refused to appear on CNN. From an August 6, 2001, Roll Call article (retrieved from the Nexis database):

During this trip Isaacson also intends to sit down with one of CNN's most vocal Republican critics, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (Texas).

DeLay, who has lambasted CNN as the "Clinton News Network" and "Communist News Network," actually suggested a boycott of the network during a recent bicameral GOP leadership gathering. None of the others Republican lawmakers who were in attendance agreed to take part.

[...]

DeLay has been particularly vocal in his criticism of the Atlanta-based news organization.

"DeLay is on a jihad against CNN," claimed another GOP aide, who said the Texan believes that CNN's coverage of issues clearly favors liberal Democrats over conservative Republicans.

In a telephone interview on Friday, DeLay himself said he "won't go on CNN. They have such a liberal bias. It's quite evident to everyone."

U.S. News reported "congressional conservatives" were engaged in a "boycott" of CNN. From the "Washington Whispers" column in the August 13, 2001, U.S. News & World Report:

CNN execs, desperate to win a broader, more GOP audience, are back to begging congressional conservatives to end their boycott of the network Republicans view as liberal. New boss Walter Isaacson joined the effort last week, meeting with hard-line leaders in the House, Senate, and White House, offering to be more balanced or, as one gleeful participant hoped, more like Fox, which is known for featuring GOP-ers.

CNN president reportedly met with GOP leaders to hear "concerns" about purported bias. From the August 6, 2001, Roll Call article:

In an effort to improve his network's image with conservative leaders, new CNN chief Walter Isaacson huddled with House and Senate GOP leaders last week to seek advice on how to attract more right-leaning viewers to the sagging network.

Isaacson met with Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), Senate Minority Leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.), House GOP Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (Okla.), Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) to talk about CNN's image with conservatives and how it can be improved.

Isaacson confirmed that he also reached out to senior White House officials, but he denied that he was seeking counsel on how to boost CNN's ratings with conservative viewers.

"I was trying to reach out to a lot of Republicans who feel that CNN has not been as open covering Republicans, and I wanted to hear their concerns," Isaacson said in an interview Friday.

"I definitely did not say, 'How do we attract the conservative viewer?'" said Isaacson, who stressed that his message was, "Let me hear what you think of CNN, and I am here to introduce myself."

Roll Call: CNN outreach "demonstrates to GOP strategists" that "unrelenting" bias accusations "are beginning to hit home": From the August 6, 2001, Roll Call article:

To Republicans, Isaacson's presence on Capitol Hill is a sign of weakness and shows how much Fox News Channel, founded just under five years ago, has eroded CNN's lead as the top cable option for political news.

But Isaacson, the former editorial director of Time Inc., disputed assertions that he was on a mission to keep up with Fox.

"It really doesn't have to do with any other network," Isaacson said. "It wasn't some programming strategy or our relationship with Fox or anything like that."

Nevertheless, Isaacson's counterpart at Fox, Roger Ailes, gently mocked his competitor's recent swing through Capitol Hill, while admitting it was a clever business move.

"I think it is a real sign of progress that after [21] years, CNN has found out that there's more than one point of view," jibed Ailes.

[...]

It also demonstrates to GOP strategists that their unrelenting attacks on the media, in which television and newspaper reporters are accused of being biased against Republicans and conservatives, are beginning to hit home with those who decide what gets aired on the nightly news.

GOP aide: Isaacson "said he 'wanted to change the culture' at CNN." From the August 6, 2001, Roll Call article:

"I definitely did not say, 'How do we attract the conservative viewer?'" said Isaacson, who stressed that his message was, "Let me hear what you think of CNN, and I am here to introduce myself."

[...]

"[Isaacson] is panicked that he's losing conservative viewers," said a top aide to one of the GOP lawmakers who met with Isaacson.

"He said, 'Give us some guidance on how to attract conservatives.' He said he 'wanted to change the culture' at CNN. I think he perceived that they have a problem, and they do have a problem."

USA Today: CNN's reported courting of Limbaugh for show "could neutralize continuing allegations from conservatives that CNN leans left." On August 13, 2001, shortly after the reports of Isaacson's outreach to Republican leaders, USA Today reported:

CNN, which is on record saying it wants to lure major star power to its ranks, is talking to ultra-popular conservative radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh.

[...]

For years, Limbaugh, the media darling of right-wing Republicans, has called CNN "the Clinton News Network" on his radio show.

Although chances of getting Limbaugh appear remote, doing so could neutralize continuing allegations from conservatives that CNN leans left.

Walter Isaacson tacitly acknowledged such a problem Aug. 2 when, in one of his first acts as CNN president, he traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with Republican leaders to hear their concerns about CNN.

Hiring Limbaugh also could help lure viewers away from arch rival Fox News Network, which has been taking an increasingly bigger bite out of CNN viewership. Some observers perceive the Fox News Channel as leaning right, although executives there insist that Fox's coverage is "fair and balanced."

On August 14, 2001, USA Today reported:

Conservative radio personality Rush Limbaugh confirmed Monday that he has been "listening" to what CNN has to offer.

"Am I talking with CNN?" Limbaugh echoed a caller to his daily radio show. "No, I am listening."

[...]

Monday, insiders said CNN is eyeing Limbaugh for a Sunday program.

News that CNN has reached out to Limbaugh, a hero to right-wing Republicans who makes upwards of $ 30 million a year bashing liberal Democrats, was the talk of CNN Monday. At a staff meeting, CNN chief Walter Isaacson acknowledged that there have been discussions with a variety of people -- Clinton adviser James Carville is said to be another -- but didn't confirm talking to Limbaugh. He re-assured staffers that CNN's mission is to be fair and balanced.

CNN spokeswoman Christa Robinson said the network "is always interested in providing a diversity of on-air voices" but wouldn't confirm talks with Limbaugh.

Dowd: DeLay "aides said he would come back to CNN for Rush." According to Maureen Dowd's August 15, 2001, New York Times column:

Mr. DeLay's aides said he would come back to CNN for Rush, but a Bush official thought Rush would be an inadequate ''silver bullet.'' ''Walter should look in the mirror,'' the official said. ''He's the very culture -- the Bronxville-Manhattan-cafe-latte-glitterati-honored-by-Tina-and-Harry crowd -- that conservatives want changed at CNN. It's putting the problem in charge of the problem.''

In 2002, GOP leadership reportedly threatened or engaged in Crossfire boycott

In 2002, news outlets reported that Republican leaders were boycotting or threatening to boycott CNN's Crossfire in response to the hiring of Democratic strategists James Carville and Paul Begala.

U.S. News: GOP leadership "blackballing" CNN's Crossfire. From U.S. News' April 15, 2002, "Washington Whispers":

Maybe it was Paul Begala's opening comments on the first day of CNN's revamped Crossfire that it was time to "kick a little right-wing ass" that angered Republicans. Or when cohost James Carville kept interrupting GOP Chairman Marc Racicot. Whatever, Republican leaders are blackballing the show. "The word is out: Don't go on; you'll get screwed," says a top Senate aide. Adds a House colleague: "It isn't a total boycott, but the show's last on our list to do." That's a blow for CNN, which has struggled to snare GOP guests as it battles with conservative-friendly Fox News. The complaints: Combative liberals Begala and Carville, both Democratic Party operatives, are too good at what they do, and conservative journalists Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson, who might see a nuance now and then, can't keep up. And they hate the live George Washington University audience. "It's like Jerry Springer," gripes a GOP-er. Says CNN's Ali Weisberg: "Robert Novak and Tucker Carlson are tough and smart on the right, and they can certainly hold their own. . . . Crossfire always tries to keep its guests--and now its live audience--balanced."

U.S. News: GOP "boycott" of Crossfire "has become official policy." From U.S. News' April 29, 2002, "Washington Whispers": "The GOP whisper campaign to boycott CNN's political show Crossfire has become official policy. Top leaders have told members not to go on the show because they feel cohosts and Democratic activists James Carville and Paul Begala are unfair to them and their views."

The Hill: "Republican officials threatened to boycott [Crossfire] in protest of Carville and Begala." From a July 10, 2002, Hill article:

But the new brawling style has also stirred some controversy. Earlier this year Republican officials threatened to boycott the show in protest of Carville and Begala, who they said lacked the journalistic fairness of Novak, a syndicated columnist, or Carlson, a columnist for New York magazine.

Among other things, Carville and Begala are famous for pioneering the use of a "war room" during Bill Clinton's presidential campaigns to respond to Republican attacks. Carville's hard charging style earned him the nickname "The Ragin' Cajun."

However, the appearance of House Deputy Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) on the show last week indicates GOP gripes have died down.

Begala took it relatively easy on Blunt compared to fellow guest Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), who hammered him and his GOP colleagues for holding a fundraiser with pharmaceutical firms as the House is gearing up to debate prescription drug legislation.

[...]

Republican lawmakers and leaders also recognize the political value of a show like "Crossfire," perhaps the reason their boycott was so short-lived.

Roll Call: DeLay aides denied DeLay-orchestrated boycott of Crossfire in 2002. From a May 2, 2002, Roll Call article:

In a sure sign that they get their anger management lessons from "The Hammer" himself, two aides to House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Texas) went to great lengths to accuse CNN of trumping up an alleged feud between the Republican leader and the network to boost the ratings of its "Crossfire" program.

Near the end of CNN's party last week to promote the new hosts and setting for "Crossfire," DeLay press aides Stuart Roy and Jonathan Grella lit into two CNN officials for recent media stories claiming that DeLay has urged top Republicans to boycott the show for being unfriendly to the GOP. Roy and Grella insist there is no boycott and charged that CNN officials are leaking the stories to get attention for the revamped show.

"It's only been a couple of weeks since 'Crossfire' debuted their boxing theme and they already appear punch drunk," Roy told HOH.

Roy was particularly amused that everyone from CNN czar Walter Isaacson to liberal host Paul Begala were lobbying the staffers to get DeLay - the man they're supposedly at war with - to appear on the show.

"The CNN folks were all over us like a pair of bad suspenders on Larry King the other night trying to get us to commit to having Tom on their show," said Roy. "We're flattered they think Tom DeLay is the answer to their ratings challenges."

Sam Feist, Crossfire's senior executive producer, just laughed off the allegation that CNN is orchestrating the feud for personal gain. He seemed amused that he and a CNN publicist were hit with the allegations while Roy and Grella were enjoying the network's open bar.

"Now did DeLay's spokesman come up with that conspiracy theory while he was drinking our liquor or eating our food at the 'Crossfire' party?" cracked Feist. "As always, we'd love to have the Congressman on anytime."

In 2004, NY Times reporters were excluded from Air Force Two

In a September 19, 2004, New York Times piece, Rick Lyman reported:

The vice president travels on Air Force Two, a tech-packed wide-body with private areas in the front, a Secret Service buffer in the middle and a media cabin in the back. A crew of about 10 reporters flies with him, representing all the networks, the wire services and two or three newspapers. There are snacks, cable television and camaraderie.

But there is not a seat for me.

Nor has there been a seat for the previous two New York Times reporters sent to cover the vice president. I am told not to take this personally. Nor, I am told, is this intended as a slight against the paper, which normally maintains a seat (paid for handsomely) on all campaign planes, presidential and vice-presidential.

Frankly, there are some colleagues who suspect that antipathy toward the newspaper may be behind it. Anne Womack, the vice president's chief spokeswoman, says such suspicions are baseless. There simply are not enough seats for all of the press, and other publications got their names on the list before us. If someone drops out, they'll let me know.

In 2006, GOP House members sought punishment, possible prosecution of NY Times

In the wake of a June 23, 2006, New York Times article (as well as articles in the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal) describing a secret Bush administration program designed to monitor international financial transactions, GOP Rep. J.D. Hayworth authored a letter reportedly signed by 70 House members calling on House Speaker Dennis Hastert to "penalize" the Times by rescinding its congressional press credentials. GOP Rep. Peter King also repeatedly called for a criminal investigation of the Times and other papers. At least one Fox News personality similarly called for an investigation, and others criticized the Times. The House subsequently passed a "Republican-crafted resolution ... on a largely party-line vote" condemning publication of reports about the program and stating that "[f]ederal statutes criminalize the unauthorized disclosure and publication of sensitive intelligence information."

70 House members reportedly signed Hayworth letter calling for revocation of NY Times' House press credentials. From a June 30, 2006, FoxNews.com report:

Hayworth said that he and 70 other representatives have sent Speaker Dennis Hastert a letter asking him to pull the press credentials for The New York Times.

"By courtesy and custom, there is a standing committee of journalists who customarily have determined credentialing for members of the press since back in the 1880s. But in the final analysis, elected members of the House and the Senate, through their respective leaders -- in the case of the House, that would be the speaker -- ultimately, they make the decision," Hayworth said.

He added that yanking the credentials is not a violation of the First Amendment as it wouldn't restrict the Times from reporting on Congress.

"However, it would remove Times reporters from some of the most important real estate in Washington, D.C., the speaker's lobby and the press gallery of the United States Congress," he said.

Hayworth letter: "Times should be penalized" for financial tracking report. Hayworth's letter to Hastert stated: "We are writing to ask you to use your authority to rescind the congressional press credentials of the New York Times. ... Times Editor Bill Keller called the decision to reveal the existence of the terrorist tracking program a 'hard call,' but went ahead and made it anyway. We disagree. It was not a 'hard call' -- it was the wrong call and the Times should be penalized for it."

As Homeland Security Committee chairman, King called for criminal investigation of NY Times. King sent a letter to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales calling for him to "immediately investigate" the actions of Times "reporters, editors, and publisher" "for possible criminal prosecution under the Espionage Act ... the Comint Act ... and/or other relevant federal criminal statutes." In the letter, King also suggested investigating the Los Angeles Times and The Wall Street Journal, which published similar stories about the financial tracking program, for "any possible violations of the law."

King went on Fox News to call for "criminal investigation and prosecution" of NY Times. King called for a criminal investigation on both Fox News Sunday and Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor. On Fox News Sunday, King said: "[N]o one elected The New York Times to do anything. And The New York Times is putting its own arrogant, elitist, left-wing agenda before the interests of the American people. And I'm calling on the attorney general to begin a criminal investigation and prosecution of The New York Times -- its reporters, the editors that worked on this, and the publisher. We're in time of war, Chris, and what they've done here is absolutely disgraceful. I believe they've violated the Espionage Act, the Comint Act."

Right-wing media figures joined King in calling for criminal investigation of NY Times. Fox News contributor Bill Kristol, right-wing pundit Ann Coulter, and radio host Melanie Morgan all joined King in calling for a criminal investigation of the Times. Fox News personalities Newt Gingrich, Morton Kondracke, and Michael Barone also criticized the Times for publishing the financial tracking story.

House passed "Republican-crafted resolution ... on a largely party-line vote" condemning publication of reports about financial tracking program. From a June 30, 2006, Associated Press article:

The House on Thursday approved a Republican-crafted resolution condemning news organizations for revealing a covert government program to track terrorist financing, saying the disclosure had "placed the lives of Americans in danger."

The resolution, passed 227-183 on a largely party-line vote, did not specifically name the news organizations, but it was aimed at the New York Times and other news media that last week reported on a secret CIA-Treasury program to track millions of financial records in search of terrorists.

[...]

The resolution "condemns the unauthorized disclosure of classified information" and "expects the cooperation of all news media organizations in protecting the lives of Americans and the capability of the government to identify, disrupt and capture terrorists by not disclosing classified intelligence programs such as the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program."

Democrats reacted angrily to the GOP majority's refusal to allow them to offer an alternative that would also have expressed concerns about the unauthorized leak of classified information but would have left out language defending the legality of the program.

Resolution referenced "criminal" laws against "publication of sensitive intelligence information" and said the House "expects the cooperation of" news outlets "by not disclosing classified intelligence programs." From H. Res. 895, as passed by the House on June 29, 2006:

Title: Supporting intelligence and law enforcement programs to track terrorists and terrorist finances conducted consistent with Federal law and with appropriate Congressional consultation and specifically condemning the disclosure and publication of classified information that impairs the international fight against terrorism and needlessly exposes Americans to the threat of further terror attacks by revealing a crucial method by which terrorists are traced through their finances.

[...]

Whereas the unauthorized disclosure of sensitive intelligence information inflicts significant damage to United States activities in the global war on terrorism by assisting terrorists in developing countermeasures to evade United States intelligence capabilities, costs the United States taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars in lost capabilities, and ultimately endangers American lives;

[...]

Whereas at some point before June 23, 2006, classified information regarding the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program was illegally and improperly disclosed to members of the news media;

Whereas beginning on June 23, 2006, certain media organizations knowingly published details about a classified program that the United States Government had legally and with appropriate safeguards used to track the financing of terrorism, including specific intelligence gathering methods;

Whereas the Administration, Members of Congress, and the bipartisan chairmen of the 9/11 Commission requested that media organizations not disclose details of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program so that terrorists would not shift their financing to channels in the international financial system that are less easily observed by intelligence agencies;

Whereas the disclosure of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program has unnecessarily complicated efforts by the United States Government to prosecute the war on terror and may have placed the lives of Americans in danger both at home and in many regions of the world, including active-duty armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan;

Whereas persons who have access to classified information, or who have classified information passed onto them, have a responsibility to the people of the United States not to endanger the populace through their exercise of the right to freedom of speech; and

Whereas Federal statutes criminalize the unauthorized disclosure and publication of sensitive intelligence information, regardless of the source: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives--

(1) supports efforts to identify, track, and pursue suspected foreign terrorists and their financial supporters by tracking terrorist money flows and uncovering terrorist networks here and abroad, including through the use of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program;

(2) finds that the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program has been conducted in accordance with all applicable laws, regulations, and Executive Orders, that appropriate safeguards and reviews have been instituted to protect individual civil liberties, and that Congress has been appropriately informed and consulted for the duration of the Program and will continue its oversight of the Program;

(3) condemns the unauthorized disclosure of classified information by those persons responsible and expresses concern that the disclosure may endanger the lives of American citizens, including members of the Armed Forces, as well as individuals and organizations that support United States efforts; and

(4) expects the cooperation of all news media organizations in protecting the lives of Americans and the capability of the government to identify, disrupt, and capture terrorists by not disclosing classified intelligence programs such as the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program.

CBSNews.com Public Eye writer saw coordinated attack on Times from King, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney. From Brian Montopoli's post on CBSNews.com:

Look out, cowboy: There's a new talking point in town.

President Bush: "Congress was briefed. And what we did was fully authorized under the law. And the disclosure of this program is disgraceful.

Vice President Cheney: "What is doubly disturbing for me is, not only have they gone forward with these stories, but they've been rewarded for it, for example in the case of the terrorists surveillance program by being awarded the Pulitzer Prize for outstanding journalism. I think that is a disgrace."

Rep. Peter King: "And I'm calling on the attorney general to begin a criminal investigation and prosecution of The New York Times, its reporters, the editors that worked on this, and the publisher. We're in time of war, Chris, and what they've done here is absolutely disgraceful. I believe they violated the Espionage Act, the Comint Act. This is absolutely disgraceful."

Notice any similarities?

Yes, in a stunning coincidence, Bush, Cheney, and King all independently came to the conclusion that the decision by the New York Times and other newspapers to publish a report on a secret government program examining bank data was a disgrace. A disgraceful disgrace, in fact.

In 2008, Bush counselor Gillespie attacked NBC

In May 2008, Bush White House counselor Ed Gillespie publicly accused NBC of engaging in "deceitful editing" in its airing of portions of an interview NBC reporter Richard Engel conducted with Bush. In a letter to NBC News president Steve Capus, Gillespie wrote, "I'm sure you don't want people to conclude that there is really no distinction between the 'news' as reported on NBC and the 'opinion' as reported on MSNBC, despite the increasing blurring of those lines." Fox News personalities subsequently questioned why Bush would agree to be interviewed by NBC in the first place and applauded the White House's decision to attack NBC.

Gillespie accused NBC of "deceitful editing" and of "blurring" the lines "between the 'news' as reported on NBC and the 'opinion' as reported on MSNBC." In a May 19, 2008, open letter to Capus, Gillespie said NBC engaging in "deceitful editing" of an interview the network's Engel conducted with Bush. In the letter, Gillespie wrote:

Mr. Capus, I'm sure you don't want people to conclude that there is really no distinction between the "news" as reported on NBC and the "opinion" as reported on MSNBC, despite the increasing blurring of those lines. I welcome your response to this letter, and hope it is one that reassures your broadcast network's viewers that blatantly partisan talk show hosts like Christopher Matthews and Keith Olbermann at MSNBC don't hold editorial sway over the NBC network news division.

NBC stood by reporting, criticized Gillespie's letter. From a May 19, 2008, AP article on MSNBC.com:

NBC countered by saying the unedited interview has been available since Sunday on the network's Web site, and that the reporting accurately reflects the interview. The extra sentences by Bush were included during a report on Sunday's "Today" show.

Capus replied that there was no effort to be deceptive and called Gillespie's criticism a gross misrepresentation of the facts.

"Just as the White House does not participate in the editorial process at the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal or USA Today, NBC News, as part of a free press in a free society, makes its own editorial decisions," NBC said in a statement.

In NBC's nightly newscast on Monday, anchor Brian Williams noted that the White House objected to how it presented the Bush interview. Williams reiterated that the entire interview was available on msnbc.com and that viewers could post comments on the broadcast's blog if they wanted.

That didn't satisfy Gillespie, who issued another statement moments later. "It's simply absurd for people to have to log onto the Internet and stream video to get accurate information from NBC News," he said.

The White House routinely pushes back against news stories it does not agree with by issuing "Setting The Record Straight" press releases. But the one against NBC News stands out for its angry tone and its accusation that the news division deceptively and deceitfully edited the president's words.

NY Times' Stolberg: Gillespie letter was "go-for-the-jugular move." In a May 23, 2008, New York Times piece, Sheryl Gay Stolberg wrote:

That was unusual enough; most disputes with reporters are settled -- or at least aired out -- behind the scenes. But the real aim of the lengthy missive could be found in its very last line, in which Mr. Gillespie accused NBC of blurring the lines between its news division and "blatantly partisan talk show hosts like Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann at MSNBC."

This was a go-for-the-jugular move. NBC, which shares offices and staff with its more opinionated cable sister, MSNBC, is particularly sensitive to such criticism, and Mr. Capus responded by saying the "reporting accurately reflects the interview" and that, in any event, viewers could see the entire unedited interview on the MSNBC Web site.

Around Washington, the Gillespie "Setting the Record Straight" was seen as a kind of shot across the bow, a warning from a White House that is trying to keep the spotlight on the president when the press is more concerned with the presidential campaign. It also raised the question of whether the administration was using the letter to NBC to further Republican goals.

"It is routine for them to write memos and scream and yell, it's all part of the game," said Joe Lockhart, who did his own share of screaming and yelling at the press as President Clinton's press secretary.

"But when it goes public," Mr. Lockhart said, "it reflects a broader strategy to get something else done. Maybe it's to put everyone on notice that we're still here, or to put everyone on notice that you'd better be careful, we'll embarrass you publicly if you get the story wrong. Or maybe it's a political strategy to help McCain and help gin up the base. Or it could be all three. But it wasn't a random act."

Fox News' Ingraham questioned why White House would agree to NBC interview. From the May 19, 2008, O'Reilly Factor, with guest host Laura Ingraham (as noted by Think Progress) (transcript from Nexis):

INGRAHAM: Now Karl, why would the White House agree to do an interview with Richard Engel? I mean, this is the guy who, you know, really didn't want to give the surge any credit and NBC, an organization, obviously that's called this a civil war. Now it's kind of not gone back and changed his view on that. We're in a recession, etcetera, etcetera. I mean, why bother really at this point?

ROVE: Well, incidentally, you saw in the letter that Ed Gillespie sent to President Capus of NBC. He reiterated -- brought back up the issue of civil war, where they unilaterally decided in 2006 that they would depict this as a civil war. Ed pointed out they haven't been depicting it as a civil war since late last year. And had they -- he inquired as to whether or not they changed their policy.

Look, NBC has got a real problem because we're now in a position where we are starting to see the journalistic standards of MSNBC, which are really no standards at all, creep into NBC, which is a respected news organization.

And you ask why would the president give an interview to him. Well, look, the president gives interviews to the major news networks all the time. If he were to sort of blacklist NBC, NBC would be screaming in the streets and be talking about it every night at news...

INGRAHAM: Right.

ROVE: ..every night on the news report. So it's important for him to give them the courtesy of responding to a request for an interview.

Fox News' E.D. Hill: "Why go on a venue like that to begin with?" As noted by Think Progress, on the May 22, 2008, O'Reilly Factor, Hill suggested that "NBC News basically panders to the left and is, in essence, in the pocket for Barack Obama" and asked: "Why go on a venue like that to begin with?" (from Nexis):

HILL: You know, I'm sure you know from watching this program that, you know, Bill has, you know, has been reporting for more than a year on a pattern suggesting that NBC News basically panders to the left and is, in essence, in the pocket for Barack Obama. Why go on a venue like that to begin with?

GILLESPIE: Go on a venue like MSNBC?

HILL: Yes.

GILLESPIE: I don't know. It's -- you know, the -- you know, there are elements there who are clearly advocates for a candidate or a point of view, not even commentaries or commentators really or analysts. So I don't know why he would.

Cal Thomas: "What's taken the Bush administration so long? ... They should have taken on the media a lot sooner." From a discussion about Gillespie's letter on the May 24, 2008, Fox News Watch (from Nexis):

CAL THOMAS, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: What's taken the Bush administration so long? Just seven months or so before they leave office they're taking on the media? They should have taken on the media a lot sooner. I had this conversation with Karl Rove at the beginning of the Bush administration. I said, you can leak to the "New York Times" and suck up to the liberals in the media and hope they'll be your friends or you can look for people who will give you a fair and balanced shake and go before them. They tried to suck up to the "New York Times," and the big networks and they paid the price.

Jim Pinkerton: NBC "declared war on the White House. Why shouldn't the White House be fighting back?" From the discussion about Gillespie's letter on the May 24, 2008, Fox News Watch (from Nexis):

E.D. HILL: Jim, tell me whether or not you think it was smart of the White House to send that letter?

JIM PINKERTON, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR AND WRITER, AMERICAN CONSERVATIVE: I think absolutely. I think NBC has staked out a position as the most leveling of the broadcast networks and their little cat paws at NBC keep opening this on. And they declared war on the White House. Why shouldn't the White House be fighting back?

In 2008, McCain campaign repeatedly attacked press, banned or threatened to ban journalists from campaign plane and bus

In 2008, the McCain campaign reportedly threatened to pull out of an NBC-moderated debate, reportedly banned two journalists from its planes and threatened to ban others, and attacked The New York Times and MSNBC as "advocacy organizations" seeking to defeat McCain.

The McCain campaign reportedly threatened to pull out of an NBC-moderated debate. Bloomberg and The New York Times both reported that McCain considered pulling out of an NBC-moderated presidential debate. The Times reported:

Mr. Brokaw said he had been told by a senior McCain aide, whom he did not name, that the campaign had been reluctant to accept an NBC representative as one of the moderators of the three presidential debates -- until his name was invoked.

"One of the things I was told by this person was that they were so irritated, they said, 'If it's an NBC moderator, for any of these debates, we won't go,' " Mr. Brokaw said. "My name came up, and they said, 'Oh, hell, we have to do it, because it's going to be Brokaw.' "

The McCain campaign reportedly "banned" NY Times' Dowd, Time's Klein from its campaign planes. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd reportedly told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that she had been "banned from both [of the McCain campaign's] planes for 'the foreseeable future.' " Time columnist Joe Klein wrote in an October 21 blog post: "Yes, yes, I've been banned from McCain's plane." Responding to a question from the Politico about Klein's removal from the McCain planes, campaign spokesman Michael Goldfarb stated "we don't allow Daily Kos diarists on board either."

McCain aide Salter reportedly "threatened to throw" Newsweek "reporters off the campaign bus and airplane." "In recent days, both the press and the Obama campaign have gotten a taste of Mr. [McCain speechwriter Mark] Salter's hair-trigger response to criticism of the senator or his campaign. Over the weekend, he fired off a three-page email to the editor of Newsweek slamming the newsmagazine for what he said was a 'biased' cover story on Sen. Obama that 'framed this race exactly as Sen. Obama wants it to be framed.' He threatened to throw the magazine's reporters off the campaign bus and airplane, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Salter says he expressed the campaign's displeasure and is talking to the publication about future access." [The Wall Street Journal, 5/15/08]

McCain aide: Campaign was "going to throw The New York Times off the plane" but "changed their minds. In an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, Goldfarb stated that the campaign intended to "throw The New York Times off the plane" and that "they changed their minds."

The McCain campaign reportedly called MSNBC "an organ of the Democratic National Committee." Steve Schmidt, McCain campaign senior strategist, reportedly called MSNBC "an organ of the Democratic National Committee" and "a partisan advocacy organization that exists for the purpose of attacking John McCain." [The Washington Post, 5/28/08]

McCain aide Schmidt reportedly said NY Times not "a journalistic organization" but a "pro-Obama advocacy organization."

"Whatever the New York Times once was, it is today, not by any standard, a journalistic organization," Schmidt said. "It is a pro-Obama advocacy organization that everyday attacks the McCain campaign, attacks Sen. McCain, attacks Gov. Palin, and excuses Sen. Obama."

Schmidt continued: "This is an organization that is completely, totally, 150% in the tank for the Democratic candidate, which is their prerogative to be, but let's not be dishonest and call it something other than what it is. Everything that is read in the New York Times that attacks this campaign should be evaluated by the American people from that perspective." [The Wall Street Journal, 9/22/08]

In wake of Dunn comments, conservative media attack Dunn, White House

Conservative media fearmonger that Fox News is part of White House "enemies list." Following Dunn's comments, conservative media figures are again fearmongering that the White House has an "enemies list" and that Fox News is -- in the words of Glenn Beck -- "another enemy" that "warmongers" in the Obama administration would fight with "missiles pointed right at Fox." Sean Hannity claimed the White House is "promising retribution," and conservative radio host Mark Levin said, "[L]et me be clear -- there is an enemies list, a political hit list that this administration has. Just as Castro did, and Chavez and Stalin."

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