It is alternatively aggravating and amusing to watch the White House and their echo chambers in the left-wing media and among their allied activist organizations go after FoxNews. Never before (at least not since Nixon) has an Administration so attempted to discredit and isolate a news organization.
Even some left-wing bloggers and liberal pundits have questioned the strategy, with one reliably liberal commentator calling the “administration’s war on Fox News is dumb on multiple levels“:
It makes the White House look childish and petty at best, and it has a distinct Nixonian — Agnewesque? — aroma at worst. It is a self-defeating trifecta: it distracts attention from the Obama administration’s substantive message; it serves to help Fox, not punish it, by driving up ratings; and it deprives the White House, to the extent it refuses to provide administration officials to appear on the cable network, of access to an audience that is, in fact, broader than hard-core Obama haters.
It certainly isn’t hurting FoxNews’ ratings. And indeed, it may be that Fox continues to lead the cable news market that so frustrates the President (drawing an audience that regularly exceeds that of MSNBC and CNN combined, and even exceeds its competitors if Headline News is thrown in the mix). The White House whining will only serve to increase those ratings, in part, because the hullabaloo will cause some people who might not otherwise check out the news network to do so.
And many, finding coverage more balanced than that on the other news networks, will continue to watch Fox.
Can’t they just accept that not all the news networks will fawn over the President as do the various anchors and reporters at MSNBC and CNN? Why do they so bristle at critical coverage, coverage similar to (but less hostile than) that received by the presisdent’s immediate predecessor on the three broadcast networks and those two cable news networks?
Maybe because they fear the other networks will pick up on the stories that Fox covers (and they neglect). Ben Smith believes
Mike Allen and Josh Gerstein nail the real explanation in their story today: The White House is working to prevent stories born on Fox from crossing over into more widely-viewed media.
Rob on Say Anything concurs, saying they want us to believe that stories on FoxNews don’t count:
But if they spread to another legitimate (in the eyes of Obama and liberals) media out like, say, MSNBC then it can be real news.
Meaning that the Obama administration is essentially trying to define for the media what is and is not news.
Many of the same media which screamed and yelled when they alleged then-President George W. Bush tried to do the same thing now prefer to let the White House define the news. Makes their job easier. Less shoe leather involved.
ADDENDUM: Calling the White House’s strategy “creepy,” Allahpundit offers:
Both Politico and Mediaite note that the expected righteous indignation at being lectured by politicians on what they should consider news is strangely absent from most of the press corps — with the important exception of Jake Tapper. Go figure. Even the reliably liberalRuth Marcus felt obliged to wonder what the reaction would have been had Dubya declared war on MSNBC and encouraged other news outlets to ignore the nightly spiel on “Countdown.” Olby would have duly clambered up onto the cross as a free-speech martyr — after a 40-minute special comment on freedom of the press and the “chill winds” of totalitarianism, natch — and the rest of the media would have gladly circled the wagons. Does anyone seriously think otherwise?
FURTHER ADDENDUM (addressed primarily to our critics who claim the Bush Administration also engaged in the behavior of Messrs. Axelrod and Emanuel and Mrs. Dunn): Yes, you can pull up some quotes showing that Bush Administration officials did, from time to time, criticize coverage of their policies in the news media. It’s one thing to question inaccurate reporting and quite another to trash an entire news network (without citing specific examples). You didn’t see a trio of Bush aides whining to the media about one particular network, nor did you see the White House press secretary confirming that strategy (as did Robert Gibbs in this exchange with Jake Tapper).
UPDATE: Howard Portnoy offers:
This weekend, the White House stepped up its assault on a news organization. The attack is beginning to bear fruit: FOX News’s ratings are reaching stratospheric levels, with new viewers tuning in every day.
As I noted here, attacking a news organization can’t possibly help any White House, but it can severely damage the reputation of this White House, which ran on a promised end to partisanship and petty bickering. You would think the administration would have learned its lesson from the blowback to Anita Dunn’s rant last Sunday.
Kind of hard to learn a lesson when applying what you’ve learned might undermine your entire campaigning governing strategy.