A few days ago, White House communications director, Anita Dunn, made a rather obvious assertion that Fox News was “a wing of the Republican Party.” That fact shouldn’t surprise anyone who has been paying attention. But the fallout from that eruption of honesty was a flurry of accusations that the Obama White House is engaged in an unprecedented war against Fox News. Glenn Beck even thinks that the war is against him personally.
However, this isn’t the first time that a White House has gone to war against the media. The most famous was the Nixon White House who compiled an enemies list that included some journalists. His vice president, Spiro Agnew, famously castigated the press as “Nattering nabobs of negativism.” But there’s a more recent example.
The Bush White House had a presidential counselor named Ed Gillespie. He was also a former chairman of the Republican Party. In May of last year, responding to a question asking why Bush would ever appear on NBC, Gillespie answered “I don’t know why he would.” Not surprisingly, the question was asked by a Fox News anchor, E.D. Hill. Another Fox anchor, Laura Ingraham wondered on air “why would the [Bush] White House agree to do an interview with [NBC reporter] Richard Engel?” This all adds up to a deliberate assault from the White House (and Fox News) on a major news broadcaster.
Fox News is aghast that anyone should challenge their legitimacy as a news operation. They regard the criticism as an effort to suppress their free speech rights. Of course, freedom of speech doesn’t guarantee one a television show (if it does, where’s mine?). It also does not guarantee freedom from rebuttal. It certainly doesn’t guarantee that your opponents will patronize you. Yet Fox believes that Obama and his administration have a some sort of obligation to grace their studios and sit still for some partisan abuse.
I have been advocating for years that all Democrats and progressives stay the HELL off of Fox News (see Starve the Beast). Fox pretends to regard that as inappropriate, but the quotes above demonstrate that they hold the same view in reverse. In fact, in September of 2007, Republicans openly engaged in a boycott of MSNBC. At the time I called MSNBC The Luckiest Network On Television.
So the White House that was at war with the media was the Bush White House. Nobody on the right complained about that at the time. The bottom line is that Dunn was correct about Fox News. They are not a legitimate news enterprise, and should not be treated like one. We can ignore their complaints about the White House waging war against them, because they are so blatantly hypocritical and self-serving. It is long past time to show Fox News for what it is – partisan rightist advocacy – and to behave accordingly.
So I say again: Just stay the HELL off of Fox News. And, note to the media: Call them out for their lies and disinformation. No more complacent toleration of propaganda.