Joining recent condemnations by the Obama White House, Democratic political action group MoveOn.org is urging its network to petition Democrats in congress against appearing on Fox News at all until the start of next year.
“Democrats often appear on FOX in hopes of reaching out to conservative viewers. But FOX cuts off their mic, distorts what they say, or runs biased headlines at the bottom of the screen,” the group said in a recent mass e-mail. “In the end, Democrats always lose on FOX.”
The e-mail references a New York Times article in claiming that President Obama will not be appearing on Fox News until 2010.
“The one weapon all administrations can wield is access, and the White House, making it clear that it will use that leverage going forward, informed Fox News not to expect to bump knees with the president until 2010,” the Times reported. “But Fox News, as many have pointed out, is not in the access business. They are in the agitation business.”
To this effect, Huffington Post’s Cenk Uygur explained: “The Daily Show did a great segment just last week showing how Fox News acted as cheerleaders for the 9/12 Tea Party protests and gave it wall to wall coverage, yet for a protest of almost the same exact size — the Gay Rights protest last weekend — they didn’t send a single camera crew. And The Daily Show didn’t even mention a Fox News producer who was caught on camera riling up the crowds in the 9/12 protest and literally encouraging them to cheer louder. I don’t think they sent a similar ‘news producer’ to the gay rights march. To argue that they covered these protests straight without any leaning toward one side or another is comically disingenuous.”
MoveOn also cited a report by watchdog group Media Matters which called out an instance of Fox News re-purposing media highlights from a Senate GOP press release.
On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel came out swinging. “It’s not a news organization so much as it has a perspective. And that’s a different take. And more importantly, is not have the CNNs and the others in the world basically be led in following Fox, as if what they’re trying to do is a legitimate news organization.”
Asked recently how Fox News is different than other major news networks, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs alluded to hosts Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.
“You and I should watch sometime around 9 tonight or 5 this afternoon,” Politico quoted Gibbs as saying.
Of course, the move is not without its detractors.
“It is unwise for Obama to single out Fox, and generally unwise for Obama to go after the media,” Alan Lichtman, a professor of history at Washington, D.C.-based American University, told The Montreal Gazette. “Clashes between presidents and the media are not usually happy for the president. It kind of brings the president down, and makes the president look a bit petty, a bit of a whiner, and it usually just helps the media outlet.”
Even veteran Washington writer Helen Thomas warned the Obama administration against going after the media.
Speaking on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, the Hearst Newspapers columnist, who as White House correspondent has covered every president since John F. Kennedy, told Obama: “They can only take you down. You can’t kill the messenger.”
David Carr, writing in The New York Times, similarly panned the move.
“The American presidency was conceived as a corrective to the royals, but trading punches with cable shouters seems a bit too common,” he wrote. “Perhaps it’s time to restore a little imperiousness to the relationship.”
In spite of the rhetoric being exchanged by both camps, the White House has not entirely disengaged from Fox News. Senior Obama adviser David Axelrod told ABC News host George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, “We’re going to appear on their shows. We’re going to participate, but understanding that they represent a point of view.”
While both sides certainly stand to benefit from the publicity Obama’s reclassification of Fox News will attract, The New York Daily News was quick to point out that anything could happen.
“The administration could look like a bully trying to intimidate critics and a free press,” writer David Hinckley noted. “It may also look as if it’s descending to a level beneath the dignity of the Oval Office.”
Then again, Hinckley concludes, “convincing Americans that their choice is the Obama administration or Fox News could give the administration a sweet push, at a time when it could use one.”