It turns out last month’s decision by the White House to leave out Fox News Sunday when the president made the rounds of Sunday shows was part of a larger campaign launched against the cable news network.
White House communications director Anita Dunn told TIME that FNC is “opinion journalism masquerading as news,” and went on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” earlier this week to talk more about the White House’s view of the cable news network.
“The reality of it is that FOX News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party,” Dunn said. “And it’s not ideological. Obviously, there are many commentators who have conservative, liberal, centrist, and everybody understands that. But I think what is fair to say about FOX and certainly the way we view it is that it really is more a wing of the Republican Party.”
“It really is not a news network at this point,” Dunn said, while taking care to note that the White House views Fox News Channel’s White House correspondent Major Garrett “as a very good correspondent.”
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Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente compared the channel to a newspaper with separate sections — some commentary, some straight news — and said the White House was unfairly and inaccurately conflating the two.
“It’s astounding the White House cannot distinguish between news and opinion programming,” Clemente said. “It seems self-serving on their part.”
The administration has in recent months faced a barrage of criticism from Fox News personalities, such as Glenn Beck, as well as critical news stories on controversial now-former administration officials such as environmental adviser Van Jones. Some of the stories have been perfectly valid, such as questions the White House now admits it has about the community activists at ACORN, others — the president’s speech to students last month, for example – tempests in teapots.
More than two years ago, then-Sen. Obama found himself pushing back against a false story given air time on Fox, that he was raised a Muslim and educated in a madrassa.
In June, President Obama said of Fox, “I’ve got one television station entirely devoted to attacking my administration… That’s a pretty big megaphone. And you’d be hard-pressed, if you watched the entire day, to find a positive story about me on that front.”
On CNN, Dunn recalled the Fall of 2008 — “a time when this country was in two wars, that we had a financial collapse probably more significant than any financial collapse since the Great Depression. If you were a FOX News viewer in the fall election, what you would have seen would have been that the biggest stories and biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and something called ACORN.”
Dunn also took issue with Fox News Channel conducting a “fact check” of assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth a week after her appearance on the show and not exactly saturating its airwaves with news about the scandal surrounding Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev.
She also took issue with media coverage in general, saying “we learned over the summer that the mainstream media often will start covering these total inaccuracies as a controversy and that’s the way it gets into the press room. That’s the way it gets on the front page of ‘The New York Times.’ We’re not going to let that happen and stand by and let people characterize the president’s policies in ways that are simply not true.”