More White House reporters have begun filing through the crack opened by Watergate reporting icon Bob Woodward, who last week claimed he had been threatened by a White House adviser for publishing an unfavorable opinion of the President’s handling of the sequestration fiasco.
Perhaps emboldened by Woodward’s revelation, less-famous White House correspondents have begun relating anecdotes alleging the Administration of President Barack Obama has verbally abused, bullied, retaliated, spoon-fed and marginalized them in a way the press hasn’t experienced under any other President.
In a searing New York Post story this week, a number of Washington reporters — some named, others anonymous — reveal how the Administration has pressured them to report or not report the news; how it has attempted to influence reporters’ judgment in determining whether a topic should be covered; and how, when things don’t go Obama’s way in the press, there are consequences.
One longtime Washington journalist related how he’d assigned a young reporter to cover an Obama cabinet secretary. The reporter was asking “tough, important” questions and got the bully treatment for doing her job.
“…[T]hey were trying to bully her. In an email, they called her the vilest names – bitch, c—t, a—hole.”
After getting the runaround from the email’s author, the senior reporter confronted that person, saying: “From now on, every email you send this reporter will be on the record, and you will be speaking on behalf of the President of the United States.”
Good for him. But that account hints at an underlying problem with the way the press has always dealt with the Obama Administration — or, rather, how it’s allowed the Obama Administration to deal with it. Those emails could have been on the record without that reporter having to make it plain. The author of those emails was already speaking on behalf of the President of the United States. The White House press has handled this President with kid gloves, and, like any classic relationship based on disingenuous and insincere motives, it’s reaping abuse for the service.
And in the Internet Age, the White House is often finding it easier to control its own media through press releases, tweets and Facebook postings than to float information before reporters who can talk back. As a February piece in Vanity Fair explains, it’s essentially a form of state-controlled media:
In a real sense, the most powerful and pervasive news outlet “covering” the White House is the White House itself. That is a legitimate cause for concern. No American wants to live in a world of state television or sanitized photo handouts.
The press corps has been primed since 2008 to remain pliable to the wishes of an Administration it’s wanted to admire, an Administration that issues press releases through social media while dodging questions from the press. It’s hard to say which side deserves more what it’s getting; but Americans who’ve been getting their political news from TV, radio and boilerplate print media are still the biggest losers.