WH e-mail confirms a deliberate attempt to exclude Fox from interview pool in 2009
posted at 6:15 pm on July 14, 2011 by Tina Korbe
You might remember this flap from a few years ago. If you were upset then, you should feel justified now.
Back in October 2009, Fox News was nearly excluded from a series of round-robin interviews with TARP Special Master Kenneth Feinberg. Back then, Treasury officials said the near exclusion wasn’t intentional. It was just an innocent mistake and one which was quickly corrected — because the bureau chiefs of four other networks (ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC) agreed to boycott the interviews unless Fox was included (kudos to those bureau chiefs, by the way!). Ultimately, Fox News’ Major Garrett interviewed Feinberg and the fuss died down.
But e-mails newly obtained by Judicial Watch, thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request, reveal the “mistake” was deliberate, after all — but driven by White House officials, rather than Treasury officials. ABC’s Jake Tapper reports:
At the time, Treasury officials claimed that there was no “plot” to exclude Fox News. In a January 2010 New Yorker magazine story, then-press secretary Robert Gibbs told reporter Ken Auletta: “This started over at Treasury, and when it got to the White House it was fixed.”
That does not seem to be an accurate claim, given the paper trail. Indeed, it seems that Treasury Department officials wanted to include Fox News and the White House didn’t want the conservative cable outlet included. …
[Treasury official Jenni] Lecompte emailed White House official Dag Vega at 11:10 a.m. noting that Treasury was trying to add more interviews for Feinberg to the schedule. She asked: “If we did do Fox in the mix, is that an issue? (understand you would not but if we do is that a problem on your end?)”
Vega wrote to her: “we’d prefer if you skip Fox please.”
Additional e-mails “also provide colorful evidence of an anti-Fox News bias within the Obama White House,” according to Judicial Watch. One official even e-mailed the suggestion of “putting some dead fish in the fox cubby — just cause.” Now, the best defense White House press secretary Jay Carney can offer is that no dead fish actually were put in the Fox cubby, even though the suggestion was made.
But as Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said in a statement: “The juvenile Mafioso-talk in these emails has no place in any White House. For the Obama administration to purposely exclude a major news organization from access to information has troubling First Amendment implications.”
Fox reporters might have been the first to receive the cold shoulder, but they weren’t the last. In light of all this, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that the president can’t handle reporters asking questions. If they keep asking long enough, he might have to answer.