Perino says it "feels un-American" for White House to criticize a news outlet, but as Bush's press secretary she blasted NBC

››› ››› JOCELYN FONG

Former White House press secretary and current Fox News contributor Dana Perino has recently contrasted the Obama administration's criticism of Fox News with the Bush administration's treatment of MSNBC, saying, "I could have taken that tack, but I thought it was not the right thing to do and I think it's mostly because it's really unproductive, it feels un-American, and it's not inspiring." However, Perino did criticize NBC, MSNBC's parent network, during her time as press secretary, asserting that NBC had "intentionally" mischaracterized remarks made by President Bush.

Perino said she "could have" criticized MSNBC, "but I thought it was not the right thing to do ... it feels un-American"

Perino to Van Susteren: I felt criticizing MSNBC from the podium "was not the right thing to do ... it feels un-American." On the October 22 edition of Fox News' On the Record with Greta van Susteren, Perino stated: "What was interesting to me is, just from my perspective having been in a White House, there is a network, MSNBC, that I could have said that about the evening anchors, or some people in the morning or -- I could have taken that tack, but I thought it was not the right thing to do, and I think it's mostly because it's really unproductive, it feels un-American, and it's not inspiring."

Perino on Fox & Friends: "[T]here were some people who really wanted me, from the podium, to go after MSNBC, and I just thought it was a bridge too far." Perino stated on the October 19 edition of Fox & Friends: "I could have asked the same thing about MSNBC or about some of the programs that are on CNN. I understand that there are some commentators that have prime-time hours on Fox that they don't agree with and that they wouldn't want to do interviews with. And that's fine. But I think that they should then, you know, rise above it." She later added: "[B]elieve me, there were some people who really wanted me, from the podium, to go after MSNBC, and I just thought it was a bridge too far, not something that should be done from the White House. If they want to have the DNC bash Fox News all they want, you know, so be it. But, I would not do it from the White House. I don't think it's presidential, and I think people would see through it."

But Perino did take shots at NBC from the podium

As press secretary, Perino stated how "we had gotten fed up with the way that the President's policies are being mischaracterized" by NBC. In a May 20, 2008, press briefing, when asked about "the back-and-forth between you guys and NBC News," and a letter sent by then-White House counselor Ed Gillespie to NBC alleging the network had "deceptively edited" an interview with Bush, Perino stated, "The reason that we sent the letter yesterday is because we had gotten fed up with the way that the President's policies are being mischaracterized." She added, "We had complained before. And it just reached a boiling point when things had boiled over when we believed that NBC News specifically edited out -- intentionally edited out -- something that the President said in response to a question in an interview regarding Iran, and that it mischaracterized the whole interview because of it."

From Perino's May 20, 2008, press briefing:

MIKE EMANUEL [Fox News correspondent]: On the back-and-forth between you guys and NBC News, one of the issues Ed Gillespie brings up is NBC calling Iraq a civil war for a period, and then Ed notes that it stopped around September of 2007. Then Ed asks in his exchange with NBC, "Will the network publicly declare the civil war has ended, or that it was wrong to declare it in the first place?" I'm wondering if you guys have gotten a response on that matter, and if not, are you still calling for a response from NBC?

MS. PERINO: We have not heard back from them on that specific matter. We anxiously await any response that we would get on it. But I think it's quite telling that they have been silent.

The reason that we sent the letter yesterday is because we had gotten fed up with the way that the President's policies are being mischaracterized, or the situations on the ground weren't being accurately reflected in the reporting. We had complained before. And it just reached a boiling point when things had boiled over when we believed that NBC News specifically edited out -- intentionally edited out -- something that the President said in response to a question in an interview regarding Iran, and that it mischaracterized the whole interview because of it.

As regards the civil war, I remember very distinctly how there was quite the pomp and circumstance when NBC, on the Today Show, decided to declare -- that they were declaring that Iraq was a civil war. But since then, after the surge and things certainly improved in Iraq, NBC has never had a corresponding ceremony to say that Iraq is not in a civil war. I was just curious to find out what they believe.

And the same goes with the economy. When we got the numbers just two weeks ago on the GDP for the economic growth, it said that we had grown at 0.6 percent. And yet the anchor that night decided to disavow that number. We're just curious what part of the official government data that's been coming out for years do they not agree with. So we haven't had a response on that.

And just another point on this is that President Bush is going to continue to state what United States policy is for the next eight months, and certainly during the six months that there's an election going on. If, for example, if tomorrow President Bush says that he believes that the tax cuts should be made permanent, that doesn't mean he's attacking anybody; he is stating his policy. And we just want to make sure it's really clear that we're not going to allow the President's policies to be dragged into the '08 election unnecessarily and unfairly.

Perino specifically criticized an evening news anchor. During the press briefing, Perino stated, "When we got the numbers just two weeks ago on the GDP for the economic growth, it said that we had grown at 0.6 percent. And yet the anchor that night decided to disavow that number. We're just curious what part of the official government data that's been coming out for years do they not agree with. So we haven't had a response on that." Her remarks echoed Gillespie's letter, which stated:

[W]hen the Commerce Department on April 30 released the GDP numbers for the first quarter of 2007, Brian Williams reported it this way: "If you go by the government number, the figure that came out today stops just short of the official declaration of a recession."

The GDP estimate was a positive 0.6% for the first quarter. Slow growth, but growth nonetheless. This followed a slow but growing fourth quarter in 2007. Consequently, even if the first quarter GDP estimate had been negative, it still would not have signaled a recession -- neither by the unofficial rule-of-thumb of two consecutive quarters of negative growth, nor the more robust definition by the National Bureau of Economic Research (the group that officially marks the beginnings and ends of business cycles).

Furthermore, never in our nation's history have we characterized economic conditions as a "recession" with unemployment so low -- in fact, when this rate of unemployment was eventually reached in the 1990s, it was hailed as the sign of a strong economy. This rate of unemployment is lower than the average of the past three decades.

Are there numbers besides the "government number" to go by? Is there reason to believe "the government number" is suspect? How does the release of positive economic growth for two consecutive quarters, albeit limited, stop "just short of the official declaration of a recession"?

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.

Network/Outlet
Fox News Channel
Person
Dana Perino
Show/Publication
FOX & Friends, On The Record with Greta Van Susteren
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