In 2009, Obama's White House fought a much-publicized "war" with Fox News. In 2010, they might have a new opponent; but instead of battling conservatives who consider themselves "fair and balanced," the White House press secretary took aim at the liberal host of a network widely perceived as "liberal-leaning."
Addressing a crowd of progressive talk radio fans in Minnesota Saturday, MSNBC's Ed Schultz claimed he exchanged harsh words with White House spokesman Robert Gibbs off the air last week.
"I told him he was full of sh*t is what I told him," Schultz claimed. "And then he gave me the Dick Cheney f-bomb the same way Senator Leahy got it on the Senate floor. I told Robert Gibbs, I said, 'I'm sorry you're swearing at me, but I'm just trying to help you out."
The Plum Line garnered a response from Gibbs which Greg Sargent believes "probably won’t do much to turn down the temperature."
Asked about Schultz’s account, Gibbs emailed that in their private talk, he strongly took issue with Schultz’s claim that the health care bill is a gift to the insurance industry.
Gibbs adds that he demanded Schultz tell him “why he’d tell his viewers something so completely and knowingly wrong in an attempt to get people to watch his show.”
It’s an unusually harsh charge, given that the Obama White House would presumably like to calm frayed nerves on the left, and one imagines that in response, Schultz will not do a great deal to dial down the volume.
Sargent didn't specify what exactly Gibbs said regarding Schultz's lie, but many liberals unhappy with the Senate passed health reform bill have used similar language.
In an exclusive interview with RAW STORY last week, which received much attention on the web, Ohio Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich pointedly said, "There's nothing liberal about giving insurance companies carte blanche to charge anything they want for health care... Since when did that become liberal?"
In December, before changing his mind and backing the bill, former DNC chair Howard Dean wrote in a Washington Post op-ed, "In short, the winners in this bill are insurance companies; the American taxpayer is about to be fleeced with a bailout in a situation that dwarfs even what happened at AIG."
Filmmaker Michael Moore said last November, "The health insurance companies are going to make an extra $70 billion dollars as a result of Americans being forced to buy their health insurance. What company wouldn't love this bill?"
When contacted by RAW STORY to respond to the White House statement which Sargent characterized as an "unusually harsh charge," a producer for Ed Schultz responded with a terse "no response. sorry."
Schultz producer James Holm was then asked to specify if his statement of "no response" meant "now, to us, or period" and if he thought the MSNBC host might respond at a later point, but RAW STORY's last e-mail went unanswered.
NPR recently reported that "White House aides believe a lot of the liberal angst about health care will go away once the president actually signs a bill. And to the extent that the Democrats have a problem motivating their core voters, they've got time to fix it."
White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer told NPR a few weeks ago, "We're not overly concerned about these things, first and foremost because there isn't an election tomorrow, not an election the next day."
The White House has tried repeatedly to dispute the concern that health insurance companies would profit from the current reform proposal. In November, White House health policy adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle argued that “insurance companies will profit if status quo remains.” And in December, White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer argued that insurance companies wouldn’t be spending vast amounts of money to lobby against the bill if it were good for them.