White House Says Fox Is Not A News Network

October 11th, 2009 6:48 PM

"I think what is fair to say about FOX and certainly the way we view it is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party...[When President Obama] goes on FOX, he understands that he is not going on -- it really is not a news network at this point. He's going to debate the opposition."

So said White House communications director Anita Dunn on Sunday's "Reliable Sources" in what appeared to be an extension of her shameful attack on Fox reported by NewsBusters' Lachlan Markay Thursday.

Three days later, Dunn was almost seething with contempt as she discussed America's leading cable news network with host Howard Kurtz (video embedded below the fold with partial transcript mixed with commentary):

HOWARD KURTZ, CNN ANCHOR: We talked about conservative commentators. Let's talk about FOX News. You were quoted in "Time" magazine as saying of FOX News, that it's "opinion journalism masquerading as news." What do you mean "masquerading?"

ANITA DUNN, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Howie, I think if we went back a year go to the fall of 2008, to the campaign, that it was a time when this country was in two wars, that we had a financial collapse probably more significant than any financial collapse since the Great Depression.

If you were a FOX News viewer in the fall election, what you would have seen would have been that the biggest stories and biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and something called ACORN.

This is a tremendously unqualified statement, and easily refuted. Let's do it this way: as Dunn would later claim Fox was not a real news network like CNN, why don't we compare how often both networks referred to Ayers and ACORN last fall?

According to LexisNexis, from September 14 just before the financial crisis started to Election Day, CNN mentioned Ayers name in 171 segments; Fox mentioned him in 155.

As for ACORN, CNN mentioned the currently embattled liberal organization during that same time period in 157 segments; Fox mentioned ACORN in 149.

Nice try, Anita. But that wasn't her only glaring miscue:

DUNN: The reality of it is that FOX News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.

And it's not ideological. Obviously, there are many commentators who have conservative, liberal, centrist, and everybody understands that. But I think what is fair to say about FOX and certainly the way we view it is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party.

KURTZ: Is that the reason the president did not go on FOX News Sunday when he did all the other Sunday shows, and will President Obama appear again on FOX this year?

DUNN: Well, you know, Howie, President Obama, he did "The Factor." He did "O'Reilly."

KURTZ: Yes. That was during the campaign.

DUNN: That was last year. As president earlier this year when he met with news anchors, met with Chris Wallace...

KURTZ: My question is will he appear on FOX in the next couple of months?

DUNN: You had a two-part question. The first was, is this why he did not appear? And the answer is yes, obviously he'll go on Fox because he engages with ideological opponents. And he has done that before. He will do it again. I can't give you a date because, frankly, I can't give you dates for anybody else right now.

But what I will say is that when he goes on FOX, he understands that he is not going on -- it really is not a news network at this point. He's going to debate the opposition. And that's fine. He never minds doing that. But...

KURTZ: On that point, (inaudible), I want to read a statement from FOX senior V.P. Michael Clemente, who said the following, we'll put it up on the screen. "An increasing number of viewers are relying on FOX News for both news and opinion, and the average news consumer can certainly distinguish between the A-section of the newspaper and the editorial page, which is what our programming represents.

So with all due respect to anyone who might still be confused between news reporting and vibrant opinion, my suggestion would be to talk about the stories and the facts rather than attack the messenger, which over time has never worked." Your response?

DUNN: Yes. I think there have been numerous independent analyses that have looked at the difference between CNN, ABC, NBC -- ABC and FOX, and have seen there is a very different story selection. There's a very even down to the chyron they run below stories that, you know, this isn't us making it up, Howie. You study the media. You know that it's not just their opinion shows.

Fascinating. Of course, Dunn and the White House she represents aren't at all concerned with how those same independent analyses regularly find ABC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, and NBC as being tremendously biased to the left as do most Americans when asked by pollsters.

Alas, such facts are unimportant to Dunn. But there's more:

KURTZ: Take Major Garrett, he's the White House correspondent for FOX News. Do you think he's fair? Do you think he's masquerading as a newsman?

DUNN: I will say -- and I've done this in my interviews. I've differentiated. No, I've not said -- I've differentiated between Major Garrett, who we view as a very good correspondent, and his network, and Major knows this. Major came to me when we didn't include Chris.

KURTZ: Chris Wallace.

DUNN: In the round of Sunday shows, Chris Wallace from the Sunday shows. And I told Major quite honestly that we had told Chris Wallace that having fact-checked an administration guest on his show, something I've never seen a Sunday show do, and Howie, you can show me examples of where Sunday shows have fact-checked previous weeks' guests.

We asked Chris for example where he had done that to anybody besides somebody from the administration in the year 2009, and we're still waiting to hear from him. When they want to treat us like they treat everyone else -- but let's be realistic here, Howie. They are -- they're widely viewed as, you know, part of the Republican Party. Take their talking points and put them on the air. Take their opposition research and put them on the air, and that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is.

Wow! Isn't that terrible. Imagine the nerve of a journalist actually fact-checking a member of the White House.


Of course, on a related humorous note, the network she was praising, CNN, last week actually spent time fact-checking a "Saturday Night Live" routine

I guess in Dunn's view, assuring the accuracy of a comedy sketch is far more worthy of a cable news network than auditing what a White House official said. But let's continue, because there's more:

KURTZ: You are making a distinction, just before I move on, between the opinion guys, O'Reilly, Hannity, Glenn Beck, and people like Major Garrett.

DUNN: I'm not talking about people like Major Garrett. I'm talking about the overall programming.


DUNN: For instance, Howie, "The New York Times" had a front page story about Nevada Senator John Ensign and the fact that he had gotten his former chief of staff a job as a lobbyist and his former chief of staff's wife was someone Ensign had had an affair with.

KURTZ: We reported the story.

DUNN: Did you see coverage of that on FOX News? I'm not talking Glenn Beck, and I'm not talking Sean or "The Factor." I'm talking about FOX News.

KURTZ: I will have to check on that. I assume you know the answer.

You don't have to, Howie. I'll check for you. 

Hmmm. It appears the Times' revelations about Ensign were covered on the October 2 "Special Report with Bret Baier":

CHRIS CILLIZZA, WASHINGTON POST: I'll pick a different affair. John Ensign on the front page of "The New York Times" today. "A lesson in Politics," which is if there are things that might come out, they will come out and try and get out in front of them. John Ensign admitted an affair.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: The senator from Nevada.

CILLIZZA: He later was forced to say his parents had paid $96,000. It wasn't called hush money but to this family. Now a report comes out that he had sought to arrange a job for his former chief of staff, the man whose wife he was having an affair with without telling the people he was arranging that the affair was ongoing.

I guess Dunn conveniently missed that.

Of course, as she seems to believe the tawdry details of a Senator's marital affair are more important than what's going on at the White House, you can color me unsurprised.

*****Update: As NBer Free Stinker accurately pointed out in the comments section, FNC's Chris Wallace was right. For those that have forgotten:

"These guys [the Obama administration], everything is personal...They are the biggest bunch of crybabies I have dealt with in my 30 years in Washington."

*****Update II: Why did Kurtz completely ignore a fascinating and totally relevant conservation which took place on CNN's "Situation Room" Thursday concerning the White House's Fox strategy?

*****Update III: Even one of FNC's Democrat contributors thinks the Administration is a bunch of crybabies (h/t Story Balloon)!