Tensions between Fox News and the White House drew public attention in the Obama administration's first year, but we haven't heard much about it lately. Today, the right-leaning group Judicial Watch released a trove of emails obtained last week through a Freedom of Information Act request, which show White House communications aides discussing Fox, not too favorably, in private.
From Judicial Watch's release:
Regarding general anti-FNC bias within the Obama White House in an October 23, 2009, email exchange between Jennifer Psaki, Deputy White House Communications Director and LeCompte, Psaki writes, "I am putting some dead fish in the fox cubby - just cause". In an email on the night of October 22, 2009, commenting on a report by Fox News Channel anchor Bret Baier noting the exclusion of the network from the pool, Psaki writes to Compte and fellow White House colleagues, "...brett baier just did a stupid piece on it -- but he is a lunatic".
In its summation, Judicial Watch also includes a seemingly damning quote from communications aide Josh Earnest, "We've demonstrated our willingness and ability to exclude Fox News from significant interviews..." but omits the rest: "... -- but yesterday, we didn't."
The emails show White House staff discussing the official response statement to White-House-vs.-Fox stories being written and contemplated by members of the Washington media.
Taken out of context, the emails sound kind of incendiary, revealing a deep disdain for Fox News and its reporters. Flipping through the pages of emails, they reveal something more instructive: How a political press shop works, behind the scenes.
White House aides discuss an official response statement to Fox-exclusion stories ("There was no plan to exclude Fox News, and they had the same interview that their competitors did. Much ado about absolutely nothing."), express frustration at Fox for breaking an off-the-record agreement, and engage in some team problem-solving over how to tamp down a developing storyline n which multiple prominent reporters have demonstrated interest.
They also show that, thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, nothing is ever truly off the record if it's on the White House email server.