President Obama, the man known for his professorial calm in the face of jeering antiabortion protesters, health-care critics, and a slightly overzealous congressman, finally appears to have a burr in his saddle.
For an administration whose hallmark has been forbearance, the words of White House communications director Anita Dunn suggest how deeply Fox News has gotten under the Obama team’s skin.
“As they are undertaking a war against Barack Obama and the White House, we don’t need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave,” she told The New York Times.
This follows an appearance on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday (see here) in which she said that Fox News acts “almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party.”
Bad blood goes back
Far from seeking a truce, the White House appears to be ratcheting up tensions with Fox News.
The tensions are not new. As far back as the presidential campaign, Robert Gibbs (now Mr. Obama’s press secretary) had this heated exchange with Fox News commentator Sean Hannity. Then last month, Obama gave interviews to each of the Sunday morning talk shows except Fox News Sunday.
Fox, for its part, has decided not to interrupt regular programming on its main network to broadcast the president’s most recent primetime addresses, instead running them only on Fox News, which is a cable channel.
Fox News commentators have been among the leading and harshest critics of Obama, with Glenn Beck suggesting he is a racist trying to take America down the path to Communism and Mike Huckabee saying that awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama was little more than a joke.
The Obama administration has taken exception, in particular, to some of these commentators evident delight in some of the administration’s setbacks — such as its failure to secure the 2016 Summer Olympics bid for Chicago.
The White House went so far as to post a “reality check” on its website, refuting various claims made by Mr. Beck about the effort. It concludes with a link to another website that claims to debunk “even more Fox lies.”
Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente said the president is not distinguishing between the network’s opinion programs and its actual news content.
“The average news consumer can certainly distinguish between the A-section of the newspaper and the editorial page, which is what our programming represents,” he said in a statement.
The New York Times report says David Axelrod, senior adviser to Obama, and Roger Ailes, chairman of Fox News, met last month to discuss the hostilities.
Sunday’s latest volley suggests that the cease-fire — if ever there was one — is over.