Judicial Watch describes itself as a “public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption.” Today they announced that they have uncovered documents from Obama’s Department of the Treasury revealing evidence of an anti-Fox News bias within the White House.
Holy moly! What a scoop. Perhaps with a little more digging these intrepid muckrakers might have even discovered the anti-Obama bias within Fox News.
First of all, having an anti-Fox News bias is not in any way indicative of government corruption. If anything, it demonstrates a clearheaded analysis of the media giant. Fox News is a 24 hour hate machine aimed at President Obama, Democrats, and progressive politics overall. It would be surprising (and stupid) if the White House were not aware of the hostility spewed by Fox News, and did not take measures to defend itself.
Judicial Watch’s pretense to independence is about as honest as the Fox News slogan “fair and balanced.” In their press release announcing the documents [pdf] they received from a Freedom of Information Act request, they carefully highlighted only the few bits that reflected poorly on the communications staff at the Treasury Department. Note that none of the emails they retrieved were actually from the White House although it is the White House they blame for the bias.
The issue encompassing this pseudo-controversy was whether Fox News was excluded from interviewing the electrifying Kenneth Feinberg, the so-called “executive pay czar” administering the TARP program. Judicial Watch spun the story in precisely the same way that Fox News did when it occurred two years ago. The Fox angle was that they had been deliberately denied press access to Feinberg at the behest of the White House. Judicial Watch cited excerpts from the emails like “…we’d prefer if you skip Fox please.” And “I am putting some dead fish in the fox cubby.”
The first citation was a direct response to a question that specifically asked whether there would be time for Fox to conduct an interview. The answer was not a rejection of Fox in particular, it was just a response that indicated there would not be enough time. MSNBC was also not in the queue for an interview at the time. The second citation was clearly a joke by staffers who were tiring of the hard time they get from Fox.
Judicial Watch failed to put these emails in context. Even worse, their press release never even mentioned the many emails that indicated that Fox had never been excluded. In fact, Fox had not requested an interview, and when they eventually did, they got one. Here are some of the excerpts that Judicial Watch left out:
[Page 5] Fox News hadn’t made a request for an interview – certainly not to me [Jake Siewert] or Jenni who was handling. When called nets to pool, a producer did raise concern about why Fox wasn’t on the first round list. To accommodate more interviews – we had dozens of requests – we cut back Feinberg’s off-camera presser and moved a Hill briefing to create a bigger window of time and added more interviews, including Fox. Once we had more time we specifically called Major [Garrett] and dragged him out of the WH briefing to see if he could do an interview. Still no request from Fox. Major had time, came to the briefing and got his interview, same slot as everyone else.
[Page 14] Important to note that Major never requested an interview. We asked him.
[Page 18] They didn’t ask for an interview – and when they finally did ask, they got one. I know it makes for a much less interesting story but it’s true.
[Page 29] I told Major it was a non-issue. And that the WH was fine with us including them (in the end.) Anita [Dunn] specifically told me she was OK.
[Page 49-50] Press Aide: Major – We are able to offer you 5 minutes with Feinberg in a round robin following the pen and pad. Will you do the interview?
Garrett: I am stuck in the WH briefing. Will call as soon as I get out.
Despite the clear evidence that there was no effort to exclude Fox News, Judicial Watch’s press release is already circulating through the conservative media merry-go-round and peddling a narrative that is demonstrably false. This is nothing more than an attempt to tarnish the White House for something they had nothing to do with and which was not even done at all. They are confident that their audience will be satisfied with the dishonest press release and will never read through the 81 pages of emails posted on their web site.
And as if to cap off the hilarity of this nonsensical melodrama, Judicial Watch included an email [page 33] that must have been swept up in their request, but was not related to the issue at hand. It was an email from a producer of the Glenn Beck Show seeking to determine if the WH was trying to “force God off our coinage.” That conspiratorial absurdity nicely frames how ridiculous and phony this whole affair is. If we didn’t know better we might assume the whole thing was a story from The Onion.