Washington Harry S. Truman banned reporters he disliked from his presidential yacht. Franklin Roosevelt placed his journalistic critics out of earshot at the back of the room during presidential press conferences.
No such subtleties in Barack Obama’s White House. A White House blog posting this week dismissed assertions on the Fox News Channel bluntly: “Lies.” And don’t expect an apology to network owner Rupert Murdoch.
The White House’s target was Glenn Beck, the conservative Fox News commentator who regularly pokes the White House with provocative commentary. But the cable network and the White House don’t just part ways over Beck. That the White House regards Fox News with suspicion and even disdain is an understatement. And Fox News’ Chris Wallace recently called the White House “the biggest bunch of crybabies” after Obama gave all major networks except Fox News interviews for their Sunday talk shows.
It’s a combustible relationship that illustrates the partisan heat generated on cable television and the political need to stay abreast of viral information spreading at lightning speed. The aggressive White House response also brushes up against Obama’s promise of reaching for a new civility in politics.
A Wednesday post on the White House blog by Jesse Lee, the White House’s online programs director, challenged Beck’s critique of Obama’s Olympics-seeking trip to Copenhagen under the headline: “Reality Check: Trying to Turn a Point of Pride into a Moment of Shame.”
It mentioned Beck’s mistaken reference to losses Vancouver sustained hosting the Olympics. Vancouver won’t host the Olympics until 2010, and Beck meant to say the Calgary Olympics. But the blog entry did not address the underlying point — that the Olympics can be an economic drain on host cities.
The blog also rebutted a suggestion by a Beck guest that Obama confidante Valerie Jarrett had participated in a controversial August phone call that attempted to recruit artists to create works that promoted President Barack Obama’s policies. The White House noted that Jarrett did not participate in the call. It did not point out that one of her aides did.
At the end of his post, Lee supplied a link to PolitiFact, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Web site that debunked claims that White House political director Patrick Gaspard had ties to ACORN, the community organizing group now under government scrutiny.
“For even more Fox lies,” the blog stated, “check out the latest ‘Truth-O-Meter’ feature from PolitiFact that debunks a false claim about a White House staffer that continues to be repeated by Glenn Beck and others on the network.”
A Fox representative referred The Associated Press to comments Beck made on his Wednesday and Thursday shows. On Wednesday, Beck kept up his criticism of Jarrett, though he did not repeat the claims denied by the White House. On Thursday, he conceded his mistake on Vancouver’s Olympics. He then enumerated the financial challenges that city faces preparing for the games.