While the rest of the media acted shocked, shocked that a president-elect would rudely belittle a reporter from a press-conference lectern, Neil Cavuto reminded them that Donald Trump’s rebuke to CNN’s Jim Acosta was hardly unprecedented. In a measured rant delivered yesterday afternoon, Cavuto told CNN that he felt their pain, but it certainly sounded as though Cavuto wanted to make sure they really felt it first. However, in putting together a montage of Barack Obama’s Greatest Hits (On Fox News), he managed to miss one that was most on point (via The Blaze):
Take it from me, taking truth to power can be powerfully unsettling if that power sets its sights on you and attacks you and dismisses you and ignores you. It didn’t matter so much when it wasn’t about you before, CNN. Very different now that it’s you being singled out, CNN. Doesn’t seem very fair now, does it? …
Isn’t it obnoxious and unfair how some celebrate your plight? Kind of feels like the way you celebrated ours, doesn’t it? They say payback’s a bitch. If only you would take a moment to rewind the tape and see the shoe is on the other foot. Or am I confusing it with the one now kicking you in the ass?
You see, it’s hard to tell from where I sit. Back then, your silence was deafening. Very different now, isn’t it? And I suspect — just suspect — not much fun.
Some of this is at least a little unfair. When Obama and Anita Dunn first uncorked the War On Fox in October 2009, they tried to freeze Fox out of the White House pool. That prompted the White House Correspondents Association to protest, and within a few weeks, that freeze ended — even if the combative nature of Obama et al on Fox did not. The WHCA was almost certainly pushed into that action by Jake Tapper’s outspoken and singular criticism of the White House’s treatment of Fox back when Tapper was at ABC — and he’s now at CNN. At least someone at CNN has some legitimacy to criticize Trump for Acosta’s treatment.
However, as I hinted earlier, Cavuto missed at least one moment in which Obama did almost exactly what Trump did. In October 2011 (only five months after joining Fox), Ed Henry asked a question about Iran’s provocations while quoting Mitt Romney, who was then running for the Republican nomination and directly criticizing Obama. “I didn’t know you were the spokesman for Mitt Romney,” Obama jabbed back. And what was the response from Henry’s colleagues at the time? Laughter:
So Cavuto’s point is still well taken, but it’s not exactly a satisfying conclusion, either. Commentators on the Right complained vociferously when Obama did this. Presidents have better ways to use their time than belittling individual reporters, let alone undermining the legitimacy of news organizations — as Tapper argued eight years ago, too. If we believed that then, we should speak out on it now. On the other hand, that should be even more important for the media themselves, and so far they seem to be displaying a double standard.