In an astonishingly ill-conceived move, several key members of the Obama administration advanced the ongoing war of words with the FOX News Channel on Sunday.
White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel told CNN that President Obama does not want “the CNNs and the others in the world [to] basically be led in following FOX.”
Obama senior adviser David Axelrod went further by calling on media outlets to join the administration in declaring that FOX is “not a news organization.”
“Other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way,” Axelrod counseled ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “We’re not going to treat them that way.”
I cannot fathom what the reaction from the mainstream media would have been had George W. Bush directed a temper tantrum like this toward MSNBC. His administration endured a vile and brutal campaign against them by several news organizations and handled it with dignity befitting the Office of the Presidency.
The Obama White House had a chance to let their little dust-up with FNC die down. That would have been most prudent. After all, the FOX News prime-time audience is twice as large than all other cable news outlets combined. But in a stunning display of immaturity and lack of foresight, the administration’s big guns go after the news organization they desperately need to enfold into their objectives. This is bound to have serious repercussions as they have simply directed a lot more otherwise disinterested folks over to FOX News.
Media columnist David Carr of the New York Times warned that the White House war on FOX “may present a genuine problem for Mr. Obama, who took great pains during the campaign to depict himself as being above the fray of over-heated partisan squabbling.”
“While there is undoubtedly a visceral thrill in finally setting out after your antagonists, the history of administrations that have successfully taken on the media and won is shorter than this sentence,” Carr wrote over the weekend. “So far, the only winner in this latest dispute seems to be FOX News. Ratings are up 20 percent this year.”