Much of the press today is reporting the announcement that White House communications director, Anita Dunn, is leaving her post at the end of this month. And many of them are getting it wrong. This is a curious news item because it has been known since she accepted the position that it would be temporary. Nevertheless, right-wingers are falling all over themselves with delusional glee that Dunn has been “ousted.” It is just a matter of time before Glenn Beck takes credit and the Fox Nation claims victory.
On Fox News, anchor Jon Scott reported the non-event with added emphasis on her role as a Fox critic:
Anita Dunn is the person at the White House who decided it would be a good idea to try to freeze Fox News out of the White House operation, keep the president from doing interviews with Fox News personnel, keep high-level administration officials from doing interviews with Fox News personnel.
Actually, Dunn never tried to “freeze out” Fox or prevent anyone from doing interviews with them. I wish she had. The truth is that Dunn said explicitly that the President and others in his administration will engage with Fox. They will just do so with an awareness that Fox is “opinion masquerading as journalism.”
On Foxnews.com Andrea Tantaros went further, stating falsely that Dunn was leaving “earlier than planned,” and implying that she was forced out. That was not the only false statement in her column. She also said that comments Dunn made referencing Mao (which were taken thoroughly out of context) were made after her comments about Fox. In fact, they were excerpted from videos made months prior. Then Tantaros outright lies saying that…
“Liberal groups are already spinning Dunn’s announcement, insisting that her role as communications director ‘was always meant to be temporary.’“
Tantaros’ lies are revolving so fast she can’t see that it is she who is spinning. The truth is that Dunn was the President’s first choice for the position. She turned it down in November of 2008, to stay with her family and her job at a media consultancy. Obama’s second choice, Ellen Moran, took the job but later moved from that position to one in the Commerce Department. At that time Dunn agreed to come on board on an interim basis.
These facts were reported in real time when they occurred, as evident in the links above. They were not phony afterwords like those of Tantaros and countless more right-wing prevaricators.
A common argument against Dunn taking on Fox is that it backfired by helping Fox to increase its ratings. That’s a mistaken and irrelevant point. First of all, the ratings barely budged. Secondly, there is zero evidence that any change in the ratings was attributable to Dunn’s comments. Thirdly, and most importantly, the ratings don’t matter with regard to political advantage. Television ratings are a measure of a programs value to advertisers. They do not reflect public opinion on political matters. Nielsen does not have any way of knowing if a Fox viewer agrees with the content of a program. And if high ratings had anything to do with elections, then Democrats would not have trounced Republicans in 2006, nor would Obama have won in 2008. Fox was the ratings leader throughout that time period.
As Dunn returns to private life, she deserves a round of virtual applause. By daring to speak honestly about Fox, she initiated a dialogue that reverberated throughout the media. It got everyone into the debate as to the legitimacy of Fox News. That’s a discussion that produces positive results no matter which side of the fence you’re on. In fact, it is almost more enjoyable to hear Fox News advocates, and even their own anchors and commentators, batting the issue around. Every time someone poses the question of whether Fox is really news, it reminds everyone that Fox’s credentials are suspect at least. So let the debates continue.
And thank you, Anita. Thank you for your service to America. Thank you for your honesty and courage. And good luck in all your future endeavors. Be sure to check in once in a while to watch all the fun you set off.
Update: Anita is not done yet. At a Bloomberg conference, she once again took on Fox News. Her remarks covered recent incidents involving Jon Stewart (“That’s where you are getting fact-checking and investigative journalism these days.”), Karl Rove, MSNBC, and false reports from Fox about pending interviews with the President.