Jen Psaki Targeted in a Phony Fox News ‘Controversy’ About Biden and the Press

Poor Fox News. The stridently right-wing network, and Republican Party they shill for, have been having an extraordinarily difficult time finding mud to throw at President Joe Biden. Consequently, they have resorted to laughably fantastical tales of Biden plotting to eliminate meat, or phantom links on the White House website, or Vice-President Kamala Harris profiting on her books being distributed to migrant children.

Fox News, Jen Psaki

Or Dr. Suess, or Mr. Potato Head, or Snow White, or any of a dozen other ludicrous trivialities. The easily debunked book “scandal” inspired CNN’s Jim Acosta to label Fox News a Bullshit factory.” Which is something most Americans had already concluded about Fox “News.” As a result, they wouldn’t be surprised by a new story by Fox that deliberately mischaracterizes remarks made by Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki.

The headline of the piece on Fox’s website reads: “Jen Psaki admits Biden taking impromptu reporter questions is ‘not something we recommend’” The framing in that sentence relies on the word “admits” to imply something that was previously done in secret, but has now been revealed. The problem is that Fox’s framing is typically dishonest and devoid of relevant context.

The sentence fragments that Fox obsessed over referred to Biden taking spontaneous questions from the press. Psaki was quoted as saying “that is not something we recommend. […] In fact, a lot of times we say ‘Don’t take questions,'” To Fox News that was an “admission” that Biden was incapable of handling media inquiries. Of course, he has done so quite often with a measure of clarity, accuracy, and honesty, that Donald Trump could never get close to.

Psaki also added that, despite their advice, Biden would take questions anyway because he’s “going to do what he wants to do because he’s the president.” That should have silenced Fox’s scandalizing, as it affirms that Biden is definitely not afraid of the press.

CNN provided more context to this matter in an article noting that Psaki was being interviewed by David Axelrod for his CNN podcast “The Axe Files.” A segment of that interview shows Psaki elaborating on why taking spontaneous questions wasn’t recommended. It had nothing to do with ability, but everything to do with a rational, communications driven strategy:

“You’re never gonna satisfy the White House press corps and their desires for access, and I think there have been mistakes made in the past of trying to do that. If you do a press conference every other week, or once a week, that doesn’t satisfy them, they’re going to push for more, that’s their job. What we’ve tried to do, which has also been maddening I know for the press corps at times, is kind of not get pulled in by distractions.

“He likes the press corps and likes that back and forth and that engagement. But what we’ve tried to do in general, in thinking about how we use his time, is really think about what the public cares about, right? The public cares about the pandemic, the economy.”

In other words, the Biden press team is focused on serving the public. That’s a massive departure from Trump and his press team who were focused on satisfying his voracious ego with undeserved bragging, infantile insults, and flagrant lies. Public service is something that Trump and company could never aspire to – or even comprehend. And the difference between Trump’s narcissism and Biden’s compassion is both refreshing and beneficial to the nation.

NOTE: Twitter recently suspended the News Corpse account after 11 years without giving a reason. So if anyone wants to tweet articles from my website, please feel free to do so often and repeatedly. Also, Be sure to visit and follow News Corpse on Instagram. Thanks for your support.

How Fox News Deceives and Controls Their Flock:
Fox Nation vs. Reality: The Fox News Cult of Ignorance.
Available now at Amazon.

MSNBC Hires David Axelrod – Fox Nation Comes Unglued

It simply never ceases to amaze how Fox News can clutch to such fantastical versions of reality and attempt to pass them off as reasonable analyses of current events. Witness this item wherein they grouse about MSNBC’s hiring of a former Obama campaign aide:

Fox Nation

First of all, do they really think that the addition of David Axelrod to the MSNBC roster of contributors is going to substantively alter the network’s programming? Considering the fact that they already regarded MSNBC as “in the tank” for Obama, how would Axelrod change that?

Secondly, The Fox Nationalists conveniently forget that MSNBC also has on its payroll the former head of John McCain’s campaign (Steve Schmidt) and the former chairman of the Republican Party (Michael Steele). Does that mean the the GOP is controlling the message at NBC News?

Finally, Fox News has been notorious for employing Republican operatives and candidates. These are people far more instrumental to the messaging of the Republican Party than Axelrod ever was for the Democrats. They include much of George W. Bush’s “brain” trust (i.e. Karl Rove, John Bolton, Liz Cheney), and party leaders like former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and their just past nominee for VP Sarah Palin.

Fox is, without a doubt, the PR arm of the Republican Party. Their anchors are as much responsible for GOP propaganda as their well-connected contributors. No one at MSNBC has anywhere near the tight relationships that Fox has with the GOP. And Fox doesn’t have any Democrats on staff that balance their reporting in an equivalent way (sorry, Kirsten Powers and Juan Williams don’t cut it). When Fox gives a former chair of the Democratic Party the air time that MSNBC gives to Steele, or when they give a three hour morning block to a liberal Democratic host (i.e. MSNBC’s conservative Joe Scarborough), then maybe Fox can talk about messaging without being so desperately hypocritical.

Showing Their True Colors: Fox News Embraces Incivility

Pray for Fox NewsLast week the results of a study were released that measured the public’s perception of incivility in the media. Not surprisingly, Fox News had the honor of being viewed as the most uncivil news network.

This in itself is hardly news. What is immensely more interesting is that Fox News is actually proud of their exceptional rudeness. Today Fox News published an editorial by the uber-rightist Media Research Center’s VP of Business and Culture, Dan Gainor. The article took exception to remarks by President Obama’s political adviser, David Axelrod, who came out in opposition to hecklers and other rude behavior intended to disrupt campaign speeches. Axelrod said…

“I strongly condemn heckling along Mitt’s route. Shouting folks down is their tactic, not ours. Let voters hear both candidates and decide.”

Axelrod was speaking to fellow Democrats and admonishing them to refrain from the sort of vulgarities that too often mar appearances by candidates from either side. He even went so far as to say that, even if Republicans employ these tactics, polite Democrats ought not to. So how was this plea for civility received by Gainor?

He immediately mocked the left as “the party of Occupy Wall Street fanatics [and] gay glitter bombers,” and assailed them for their “Alinsky-esque tactics.” He embarked on a rant blaming Democrats for every instance of poor behavior, while dismissing any rudeness by Republicans, including the recent episode where a Daily Caller “reporter” interrupted a presidential address.

Then, inexplicably, Gainor went off on a tangent where he seemed to cease to understand what heckling is. Amongst those he accused of being hecklers were Occupy protesters who objected to police abuse, journalists who complained when they were prohibited from covering a public event, and audience members who expressed disapproval of a speaker’s comments.

In conclusion, Gainor asserted that “Axelrod and the left are scared. They saw that Romney fought hard against opponents in the primary,” and he promised that Republicans would fight back. He growled that “if Obama can’t cage his lefty animals, the GOP will respond in kind. You’d think Axelrod would like it.”

That’s the right’s response to a top Obama adviser declaring that all of the childish heckling and rudeness, no matter what side, is inappropriate and should stop. Axelrod even used the word “condemn” to describe his feeling on the matter. Yet Gainor comes away from that statement with the impression that Axelrod “likes” public vulgarity.

It is that sort of incoherent reasoning that makes it nearly impossible to deal with narrow-minded ideologues like Gainor. And it explains why most people surveyed view Fox News as the most uncivil network in the news business. What was unexpected was that Fox would publish an editorial essentially bragging about being more repulsive than any other kid on the block. OK, Fox…you win. Congratulations.

Fox Nation vs. Reality: Coming To Blows

Here is another made up headline from Fox Nation:

Fox Nation

The Fox Nationalists really enjoy cooking up headlines that totally misrepresent the content of the story they are reporting. It often doesn’t matter in the least if the headline has any relevance to the article at all. And at other times the headline is an outright contradiction of the underlying story. The only criteria for Fox is that the headline give as negative impression of Obama as possible whether or not it is true.

In this example the Fox Nationalists assert that Obama’s political aide David Axelrod and Attorney General Eric Holder “Nearly Come To Blows.” That would be a juicy story if there were any truth to it. However, the accompanying article refers to an upcoming book by Daniel Klaidman that says nothing about a physical altercation. It does describe a heated argument, but Fox took it upon themselves to falsely escalate the matter to impending fisticuffs. Here is the full excerpt from Klaidman’s book:

“After the session ended, Axelrod made a beeline for the attorney general. Obama’s senior adviser was incensed. It had gotten back to him that Holder and his aides were spreading the word that he was trying to improperly influence the Justice Department.

Axelrod, who knew all too well that even the hint of White House meddling with Justice Department investigations could detonate a full-blown scandal, had been careful not to come close to that line. ‘Don’t ever, ever accuse me of trying to interfere with the operations of the Justice Department,’ he warned Holder after confronting him in the hallway. ‘I’m not Karl Rove,’ he added, referring to George Bush’s political consigliere, who had been accused of pressuring Justice to fire politically unpopular U.S. attorneys.

Holder did not appreciate being publicly dressed down by the president’s most senior political adviser. Determined to stand his ground against Tammany Hall, the A.G. ripped into him in full view of other White House staffers. ‘That’s bull—-,’ he replied vehemently.

The two men stood chest to chest. It was like a school yard fight back at their shared alma mater, Stuyvesant, the elite public high school for striving kids from New York City. White House staffers caught in the crossfire averted their eyes. Jarrett, whose office was nearby, materialized as things got hot. Petite and perfectly put together as always, she pushed her way between the two men, her sense of decorum disturbed, ordering them to ‘take it out of the hallway.'”

So it was just a couple of guys arguing in close proximity to one another with no raised fists or threats. It was interrupted by a “petite” Valerie Jarrett, which suggests that it could not have been all that dangerous. And the belligerents were not told to cool off or stop fighting, they were not separated, they were merely told to take their argument to a more discreet location.

Ironically, the right-wingers at Fox, and elsewhere in the conservative media who are hyping this story, ought to be impressed with Holder’s position. Conservatives are convinced that Holder is an Obama toady who does everything with a political goal. However, in this affair, he was adamant that his Justice Department not be used as a dumping ground for political operatives. That would seem to prove that the right has Holder all wrong. In fact, Holder and Axelrod are both fiercely concerned with maintaining their integrity with regard to the execution of their duties. That’s what the whole argument is about.

Every presidency should have people who fight to defend the ethical administration of their offices. You can rest assured that in the Bush administration the fights involved people who were unwilling to cross ethical lines as ordered by Rove and Dick Cheney.

Andrew Breitbart’s

Today on Fox Nation they are featuring a story on whether President Obama’s advisor, David Axelrod, is losing control of the President’s image. The headline is accompanied by a photo collage of what the Fox Nationalists must think are silly pictures, but which most people would regard as human pictures.

What’s truly silly about this is that the item links to an article at Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment web site that expounds at length on what a terrible job of image building the White House is doing. The author, Kristinn Taylor, is appalled by what he regards as inadequate visual communications:

“Richard Nixon had advertising executive H.R. Haldeman; Ronald Reagan had image master Mike Deaver; Barack Obama has public relations guru David Axelrod.

“All three men understood the power of visuals in communicating the strengths of the presidents they served on the campaign trail and in the office of the presidency.

“I don’t know where David Axelrod has been since President Obama began his ten-day Christmas vacation in Hawaii, but it is safe to say he is goofing off as much as his boss.”

Taylor goes on to lament that the Obama team has…

“…failed in their most basic duty of reassuring the American public that the president is on the job.”

First of all, it is rather revealing that right-wingers like Taylor, and his boss Breitbart, so openly revere the manipulative art of public relations. The fact that they regard the most basic duty of presidential staff as providing pictorial reassurances that the President is on the job, as opposed to helping the President to actually get the job done, says a great deal about the Breitbart philosophy.

These are a breed of propagandists whose heroes are masters of deception like Haldeman, Deaver, and Fox News CEO Roger Ailes. And they are not in the least embarrassed to admit their preference for style and appearances over substance. That is the cornerstone of conservative leadership for decades. Reagan’s tough-guy, movie hero persona was thoroughly manufactured by PR professionals, as was Bush, Jr.’s cowboy everyman. Taylor’s article reinforces this superficial approach to public service and criticizes the Obama administration for not being sufficiently shallow.

It is also interesting to note that the complaint made by Taylor and company contradicts previous conservative complaints that this White House has been preoccupied with image. They never seem to tire of lame jokes about the President’s use of TelePrompters, or his photo-ops with the troops. On those occasions the President was being disingenuous for exploiting imagery. His aides were cynically attempting to manipulate the public, and were considered dishonorable for doing so. But now they are accused of failing in that “most basic duty” by not performing it.

I suppose it might be too much to expect Breitbart’s crew to refrain from hypocrisy. Taylor complained that it took four days for the White House to post a picture of the President on the phone. Oh my stars, someone get the smelling salts. In fact that wasn’t even true. There were many pictures of the President working, just not the ones Taylor cared to notice. He was too busy whimpering about presidential tiewear or the price of his hotel room.

In the end, as with most matters concerning this president, Obama cannot win. He is damned if he uses PR effectively, and he is damned if he doesn’t use it all. As Hillary Clinton once said, if he were to walk on water his critics would gripe that he can’t swim. But even more disturbing to me is the lust these people have for phoniness. They celebrate it and curse those who fail to worship it as they do. There is a place for reasonable image-making. But clearly the right has taken it way too far.

Speaking Truth To Fox ‘So-Called’ News

This is getting to be fun. Last Sunday, White House communications director Anita Dunn said what most rational observers of the news already knew: that Fox News is “the communications arm of the Republican Party.”

Today, another volley has been fired in defense of sanity. White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was on CNN and this to say about Fox News:

“It’s not a news organization so much as it has a perspective, and that’s a different take […] And more importantly, it’s important not to have the CNN’s and the others of the world being led and following Fox, as if what they’re trying to do is a legitimate news organization.”

Well said, Rahm. Especially the part about other news organizations and the need for them to avoid mimicking the dishonest methods of Fox. But that’s not all. White House advisor David Axelrod was on ABC’s This Week and said:

“It’s not really a news organization […] We’re going to appear on their shows, we’re going to participate, but understanding they have a point of view.”

That is only partly good news. At least Axelrod recognizes that Fox is platform for a hostile, right-wing point of view, but why would he consent to participate with an enterprise that he concedes is “not really a news organization?” That’s like agreeing to participate with the National Enquirer. What’s the point?

Still, it is encouraging that the White House is aware of what they are up against. And it is even more encouraging that they are willing to openly and accurately characterize Fox as a fraud as regards the business of news.

Now all we need to do is get the rest of the political establishment to get on board. The first thing any Democrat or progressive should say when interviewed by Fox is “Well, if I were on a legitimate news channel I would say…” Properly identifying Fox News should be required in every appearance. Perhaps they could subtly interject reality by saying “Thank you for inviting me to be on Fox ‘so-called’ News,” or “the Fox Opinion Network.”

This new display of courage and honesty should also be taken up by the rest of the media. This is the perfect excuse for introducing a vibrant dialogue about the journalistic malpractice at Fox News and about the responsibilities of ethical journalism in general. Simply hosting segments with balanced discussions of these issues is a positive step. If nothing else, it reinforces the impression that Fox is a fake. The only response that Fox has been able to muster so far is that they believe their audience can tell the difference between news and opinion. That’s, in effect, an admission by Fox that their trade is opinion. It’s a lame defense and it isn’t even true. Studies have shown that Fox News viewers are far more likely to believe things that are demonstrably false than viewers of other news networks.

Fox News has been relentless in their disparagement of their competitors. they have placed advertising on the air and in trade publications that explicitly demeaned other news organizations. They routinely charge them with being biased and unprofessional. They even helped to promote protests against other news networks. For some reason, the targets of Fox’s attacks never seem to fight back. Well now they have an opening to do so in the form of addressing the allegations from the White House. If they miss this opportunity they are either incompetent or have a death wish. Fox has been eating their lunch in the ratings (on the cable side), and they have both a professional and a fiduciary duty to defend themselves.

Undoubtedly, Glenn Beck will do a show Monday accusing Axelrod and Emmanuel of being Marxists (if he hasn’t already). But the more he makes this ludicrous assertion the less power it has. He has already swept up Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Mother Theresa in his paranoid net. So bring it on.