The White House doesn’t like Fox News. They don’t like media criticism in general, but they have a special dislike of Fox. The White House’s antipathy to Fox is so strong and well-known that googling “White House War on Fox” brings up more than 230 million hits, among the first of which are New York Times and New Yorker articles, hardly bastions of conservative thought (which is reflected, at least, in the New Yorker piece).Fox News is the media outlet the White House attempted to exclude from coverage in 2009.
Fox News is the media outlet the president called “destructive to the long-term growth” of America in September 2010.
Fox News is the media outlet that White House operatives generally treat with derision.
Nonetheless, this war with Fox seemed more cold than hot until recently. Now we know that Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on the search warrant for Fox reporter James Rosen, naming him as a “co-conspirator” in a leak case involving classified information about North Korea. A leak case that began in…2009, when the War on Fox was more hot than cold.
Let’s look back at that period: In late 2009, then-White House Communications Director Anita Dunn took to the airwaves and news pages to complain about Fox:
“It’s opinion journalism masquerading as news,” Dunn said in a Time magazine article. “They are boosting their audience. But that doesn’t mean we are going to sit back.”
In that article, by the way, the Time reporter pointed out how the White House referred to Fox as “unpatriotic” for criticizing the president’s efforts to snag the 2016 Olympics.
Robert Gibbs, then White House spokesperson at the time, suggested the White House’s strategy in dealing with folks like Fox would be to call them out frequently, and to hit back:
“The best analogy is probably baseball,” says Gibbs. “The only way to get somebody to stop crowding the plate is to throw a fastball at them. They move.”
But it was the White House that ended up moving, letting two staffers resign after Fox reports on controversies involving them.
Around that time, then-Fox commentator Glenn Beck revealed a tape clip showing Anita Dunn speaking at a graduation, citing Mother Teresa and Chairman Mao as her two favorite philosophers. She left her post shortly after that.
Beck was also instrumental in revealing White House Special Advisor for Green Jobs Van Jones’s “trutherism” past, uncovering a petition he’d signed, as well as other unsavory connections in his background. Jones left the White House in the fall of ’09, as well.
These controversies, covered almost exclusively by Fox, must have steamed those within the White House who were trying hard to discredit the news organization. Instead, Fox was discrediting them! Perhaps this is why they felt the need to hit back hard, as Gibbs suggested. Fox was winning the war the White House had declared.
“Unpatriotic,” “destructive to the (country’s) long-term growth” – these words from the president and his White House team now have a more sinister feel, though, don’t they? They were uttered during the time period when the DOJ started looking into the leak case involving Fox reporter James Rosen and his contacts. A case where the DOJ decided to investigate the reporter, naming him as a co-conspirator, instead of focusing on the leaker.
Did they think Rosen “unpatriotic,” “destructive” to America? Was the naming of Fox reporter Rosen as a co-conspirator an escalation of the War on Fox?
Libby Sternberg is a novelist. Her latest novel, After the War, is now available on Kindle and will soon be released in print.