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Friday, March 01, 2013

Woodward Vs White House War Has Other Journalists Exposing The 'Standards Of This White House'

By Susan Duclos

Reporters and journalists are piling up on Bob Woodward who spoke to Politico about an exchange with a White House official, which Politico referred to as a "veiled threat,", a term Woodward never used specifically.

Via the original Politico story, showing Woorward's actual quotes:

Woodward repeated the last sentence, making clear he saw it as a veiled threat. “ ‘You’ll regret.’ Come on,” he said. “I think if Obama himself saw the way they’re dealing with some of this, he would say, ‘Whoa, we don’t tell any reporter ‘you’re going to regret challenging us.’”
“They have to be willing to live in the world where they’re challenged,” Woodward continued in his calm, instantly recognizable voice. “I’ve tangled with lots of these people. But suppose there’s a young reporter who’s only had a couple of years — or 10 years’ — experience and the White House is sending him an email saying, ‘You’re going to regret this.’ You know, tremble, tremble. I don’t think it’s the way to operate.”

In follow up interviews, Woodward makes that very point, that the actual word "threat" was used by Politico, not him.


Woodward said he stands by the idea that Sperling’s language was over the line but stops short of suggesting outright intimidation. “I never characterized it as a ‘threat,’ ” he said. “I think that was Politico’s word. I said I think [Sperling’s] language is unfortunate, and I don’t think it’s the way to operate. . . . [Sperling’s] language speaks for itself. I don’t think that’s the way to operate.”

The whole incident has brought out some very interesting quotes from other journalists that believe Woodward shouldn't have brought up the exchange at all, and in their criticisms they make Woodward's point better than he did.

It is ironic that it is another Politico piece that speaks to the "standards of this White House," in dealing with the press, when other journalists' quotes speak to how "mild" and "familiar" these types of exchanges are with White House officials that work for Obama.


• Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg- "It's not a big deal. You've been yelled at by people in the White House, I've been yelled at by people in the White House."

• Chuck Todd, the NBC News political director and senior White House correspondent- " I get emails like this almost every hour, whether it's from the White House or Capitol Hill."

• Fox News host Bret Baier said on Andrea Tantaros's radio show-  "If this is it, I think many reporters — and I covered the White House for four years — received emails like this." Baier later adds "“I’m not saying the White House doesn’t pressure reporters all the time and put the heat on reporters covering the White House. I’ve heard many, many stories that they do."

• National Journal editorial director Ron Fournier, who wrote today that he has received several White House e-mails and telephone calls "filled with vulgarity [and] abusive language."

The common theme of these criticisms, is-- Being cussed out and verbally abused, is the standard of this White House over the last four years under Obama.

Isn't that the very point Woodward as trying to make originally by stating the language used was unfortunate and not the way for the White to operate?

Throughout the last four years, it is clear that the type of rhetoric and verbal abuse is the standard by which the White House under Obama has become known for. So much so, that journalists actually wave the behavior away as if it means nothing and criticize Woodward for not doing the same.

Reason provides some examples:

My first thought was of Valerie Jarrett, who the New York Times desribed in a September profile as having "a tendency to take political criticism personally, 'even when it would be more useful not to.'" In that same profile, the Times reported that Jarrett had attacked ACLU President Anthony Romero for criticizing this administration's atrocious handling of the War on Terror. "Great harm has been done," Jarrett wrote to Romero. "There has been a material breach of trust.” The Times also dug up this anecdote: After Cornel West called Obama the “black mascot of Wall Street,” Jarrett, in a creepy echo of the Bush years, called him "un-American."

But as economic advisor Gene Sperling demonstrated by haranguing Woodward, it's not just Jarrett. This administration is obsessed with image management. Sometimes the focus on the president being portrayed a certain way results in cuddly stuff--Barack Obama slow-jamming the news, Michelle Obama doing the Dougie--and sometimes it results in the White House acting petulant, bizarre, and gross.

- There was the time the White House banned a San Francisco Chronicle reporter from the White House press pool for filming an anti-Obama protest at a fundraiser. The White House initially claimed it banned the reporter for using a camera when she was only allowed to write what she saw. Then the White House claimed it hadn't banned her at all. All very confusing and weird.

- There was the time the White House prohibited local journalists from covering a Silicon Valley fundraiser, presumably for fear that they'd be better equipped than D.C.-based pool reporters to recognize major players in the California tech scene.

- There was the time the White House denied the Boston Herald a spot in the press pool because it ran a front-page op-ed from Mitt Romney. While the White House later claimed the Boston Globe got the pool spot because it submitted its request first, that explanation doesn't jibe with this email from a White House staffer: "I tend to consider the degree to which papers have demonstrated to covering the White House regularly and fairly in determining local pool reporters." Loyalty has its rewards!

- There was the time an Orlando Sentinel reporter was made to sit in a closet at a fundraiser for Joe Biden.

- There was the time Obama agreed to sit down with the editor and publisher of the Des Moines Register, so long as the paper agreed not to quote him or even reveal the topics of conversation.

- My favorite overreaction to a media outlet, however, was one I first wrote about a few years ago after a small-town newspaper editor emailed me to say that the White House had asked her to remove a sentence that "reflected poorly" on First Lady Michelle Obama. The story was titled "Inside Marine One, President Obama's Helicopter," and according to the editor, it contained a single line that suggested Obama was somewhat aloof toward the chopper pilots. “Basically," the editor said in her email, "the reporter said that the First Lady didn’t speak to the pilots but acknowledged them by making eye contact." Shortly after the story went online, the editor received a call from the White House asking her to remove the sentence (she did). Shortly after my story went online, the White House called me, too (I added a denial from the First Lady's office to my story, but didn't remove or retract anything we'd already published).

One specific one I remember is Sharyl Attkisson, the investigative reporter for CBS, when she broke a damning story about the Fast and Furious gun walking operation,, she got extremely aggressive pushback from the Obama administration. She said that a DOJ spokeswoman named Tracy Schmaler had yelled at her on Monday about the story, but that it was nothing compared to the way a White House spokesman named Eric Schultz had acted.

Attkisson said he had "literally screamed at me and cussed at me" about the story, and that the White House also told her that she was the only reporter not being "reasonable" about the issue. (Via Huffington Post)

While Woodward may be catching a ton of flack for bringing up the "standards of this White House," it is his critics that have presented the most evidence of those very low standards.