CBS journalist Major Garrett on Friday pointedly declared that Donald Trump wasn’t the first president to battle with a journalistic outlet. He highlighted how the Obama administration “demonized” Fox News and went to “war” with the outlet, his previous employer. Garrett also noted that journalists didn’t seem to care back then: “I will tell you, back at that time, I didn’t feel the collaborative and collegial sense of we’re all in this together.”
Appearing The Hill’s online show Rising With Krystal & Buck, Garrett recounted how the Democrat tried to delegitimize Fox News: “The White House said it was at war with Fox News. I was its most visible editorial representative on the White House grounds as the senior White House correspondent for Fox.”
He explained how Obama aides would try and sweet talk Garrett that he wasn’t the real problem:
The White House would always pull me aside and say “Well, really, Major, we're not at war with you," and I said “Stop talking to me like that, because when you're at war with my network you by definition are questioning and assailing my journalistic credibility and the work I do here every day.”
Garrett continued by pointing out that Trump feud with Jim Acosta isn’t unprecedented: “It’s not without precedent and it’s not without some high level people saying some very aggressive things about a single news network.”
On November 8, Garrett didn’t seem to realize such a thing happened before. Appearing on his own network's CBS This Morning, he was asked about the Acosta segment: “I have no memory of that [type of thing happening before].”
A transcript of the exchange is below. Click "expand" to read more.
Rising With Krystal & Buck
SAAGAR ENJETI: Major, I would love to get your thoughts on what’s going on with Jim Acosta right now, particularly with your experience with the Obama administration.
MAJOR GARRETT: Sure.
ENJETI: When there were efforts to shut you out of the briefing room.
GARRETT: No, there was never an effort to shut me out of the briefing room.
GARRETT: What there was — and I will just quote the Obama White House — there was a war with the news network that I worked for, Fox. The White House said it was at war with Fox News. I was its most visible editorial representative on the White House grounds as the senior White House correspondent for Fox. The White House would always pull me aside and say 'well, really, Major, we're not at war with you,' and I said 'stop talking to me like that because when you're at war with my network you by definition are questioning and assailing my journalistic credibility and the work I do here every day.
So don’t tell me it’s not about me. It is about me. Now, they never tried to pull my pass. But they had this sort of arms length relationship with Fox and tried to demonize it on a day-to-day basis. So that’s another part of American history of journalism in the White House press corp I think should at least be noted at this moment.
KRYSTAL BALL: Right.
GARRETT: That it’s not without precedent and it’s not without some high level people saying some very aggressive things about a single news network. And I will tell you, back at that time, I didn’t feel the collaborative and collegial sense of we’re all in this together.
ENJETI: I noticed that too. That’s why I brought it up.
BALL: Did you feel that there was any legitimacy to that criticism. And also, do you see that moment from the Obama presidency as almost a bridge to what has been taken to the next level?
GARRETT: Well, certainly assailing the White House press corp is not a new phenomenon in the press. Richard Nixon did it. Lyndon Johnson had his run ins with the White House press corps Almost every administration has at one level. But that was a White House saying, “We’re at war.” That’s there phrase. Not mine. And when it ended, when the White House decided to start picking fights with Fox, I was asked live on Fox News what was my position on this. I said I was a conscientious objector. I didn’t go to war with the White House and I didn’t go to war on behalf of my network.
I did my job every day to serve the audience I served, asking questions, reporting stories and doing the job of daily journalism at the White House, which, trust me is hard enough without the stressors of some larger political argument being made about the relationship of one network or one reporter to the White House itself. So, that was the position I took. It’s the position I take now. Everyone who covers the White House or any beat in Washington or any beat at all, but certainly in Washington because scrutinized because we live and die by their own credibility and their accountability and the work they do. I’ll stand on that.