Is the White House Taking Out Its Aggression on Fox?

David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel escalate the administration's attacks against the news network

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The Obama administration has been criticized for being too meek, milquetoast, and compromise-oriented in its approach to big-ticket policy items. But when it comes to Fox News, the White House has been showing its muscle. David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel, two major White House aides, went on the Sunday talk shows peddling the line that Fox News "isn't news" and should be ignored by other media. This builds on a previous attack on Fox by communications director Anita Dunn, who said the network is "a wing of the Republican party." These aggressive tactics are seen as pushback against the network's involvement in whipping up backlash against Obama manifested in the 9/12 rally, the ousting of green jobs czar Van Jones, and the annihilation of community-organizing group ACORN.

The debate revolves around a couple of points. First, some argue that such explicit targeting is beneath the dignity of a president. But others believe that considering how relentless--and in the case of death panels earlier this summer, false--the attacks against Obama have been, some response seems justified. The advisers may be playing with fire, but the urge to ignore Fox has been picked up by at least one writer, Jacob Weisberg of Newsweek, who urges fellow journalists to isolate and ignore the allegedly partisan network.

  • Time for Journalists to Start Boycotting Fox, urges Jacob Weisberg in a critique of the news organization's rightward bias published in Newsweek and Slate, where Weisberg is editor-in-chief. "Whether the White House engages with Fox is a tactical political question. Whether we journalists continue to do so is an ethical one. By appearing on Fox, reporters validate its propaganda values and help to undermine the role of legitimate news organizations. Respectable journalists--I'm talking to you, Mara Liasson--should stop appearing on its programs. A boycott would make Ailes too happy, so let's try just ignoring Fox, shall we? And no, I don't want to come on The O'Reilly Factor to discuss it."
  • Fox Is Obviously Partisan, But Non Right-Wingers Should Still Talk to Them, says Mickey Kaus, a blogger for Slate. "It's pretty obvious Jacob Weisberg is right to assert that Fox News is a partisan, non-balanced outfit, more like a 19th century pamphlet than the 20th century 'balanced' news outlet it pretends to be...I can see why this would lead Democrats to legitimately refuse to let Fox host a debate. But I don't see why this means that non-conservatives need to stop appearing on Rupert Murdoch's network. Are they only allowed to preach to the converted?"
  • Obama Should Stop Trading Blows, writes David Carr, the media critic for the New York Times. Carr argues that descending into the ring endangers the president's reputation for standing above the fray. "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....The American presidency was conceived as a corrective to the royals, but trading punches with cable shouters seems a bit too common. Perhaps it's time to restore a little imperiousness to the relationship."
  • But CNN Has Even Worse News Anchors, rebuts Jay Nordlinger at the conservative magazine National Review. He defends Fox by listing objectionable quotes from CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. He cites one moment when Cooper used sexual innuendo to mock "teabagger" protests. "Would a Fox News anchor ever, ever say anything like this -- ever? Can you conceive it? But that is what CNN anchormen do, apparently. When people tell you that CNN is a real news network, whereas Fox isn't -- I would just smile at them."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.