White House attempted to shut out Fox News reporter

Ansley Schrimpf | Newsgathering | Quicklink | October 23, 2009

Tension between the White House and Fox News continued to mount this week after broadcast bureau chiefs in Washington refused to go along with the Obama’s administration’s attempt to squeeze Fox News out of an interview.

Despite the administration’s pledge to play nice earlier this week, the White House tried to exclude Fox News – alone among the five White House "pool" networks – from interviewing executive-pay czar Kenneth R. Feinberg on Thursday.

After CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC balked at the plan Tuesday, ABC News’ Jake Tapper asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about the appropriateness of the administration's saying that Fox News, which he called "one of our sister organizations," is "not a news organization."

Gibbs said, “We render an opinion based on some of their coverage and the fairness that, the fairness of that coverage.”

When Tapper asked how Fox News was different than other media organizations, Gibbs invited him to watch the network with him one evening.

On Wednesday, NBC’s Savannah Guthrie interviewed Obama about the propriety of his administration’s stance on Fox News. “We’re going to take the media as it comes,” Obama said. “And if media is operating basically as a talk radio format, then that’s one thing, and if it’s operating as a news outlet, then that’s another. But it’s not something I’m losing a lot of sleep over.”

Howard Kurtz, a Washington Post media columnist, said the White House’s decision to go after the entire network – and not just an individual commentator like Glenn Beck – is unprecedented.

“Of course, Fox seems to be enjoying its ostracization, and the White House hasn't done much to retaliate other than keep the president off its air. But I would have thought administration officials would be tamping it down by now. Haven't they made their point?” Kurtz wrote.

Fox News leadership issued a statement Tuesday defending the company.

"Hundreds of journalists come to work each day at Fox News all deeply committed to their craft,” said Michael Clemente, senior vice president for Fox News. “It's disappointing that the White House would be so dismissive of their fine work and continue their vengeful war against a news organization.”

The New York Times detailed the genesis of the mounting feud on Thursday.