White House Still Throwing Fastballs at Insubordinate Journalists

February 28, 2013

It’s most gratifying that people are beginning to wake up to the bullying tactics of the White House toward those in the press who occasionally stray from the government-owned media model, but this has been going on for a while.

Veteran reporter Bob Woodward has said in interviews with Politico and CNN that a White House official warned him he would “regret” publishing a story reporting that the sequestration was President Obama’s idea.

“(The White House aide) yelled at me for about a half-hour,” said Woodward. The aide later apologized to Woodward in an email and claimed he was not making a threat but merely observing that Woodward would regret “staking out that claim.”

Does the aide’s story sound credible in light of the context? He was yelling at Woodward, not making a casual observation about Woodward’s journalistic accuracy. Why? Because Woodward’s account undermines Obama’s credibility on the story dominating the political landscape now: the sequestration.

Obama is on another campaign tour, jetting about the nation on the people’s dime, accusing Republicans of putting the nation’s essential services in jeopardy because they want to protect the rich.

In fact, Republicans have already compromised on raising taxes on the “wealthy,” and it is Obama who won’t move from his intransigent position, refusing to make spending cuts and reform entitlements. It is simply undeniable that it is Obama who is changing the rules in the middle of the game; tax increases were not to be part of the sequester cuts, and Woodward’s reporting confirms this.

Similarly, former Bill Clinton aide Lanny Davis, an Obama supporter, said that a White House official once threatened to revoke The Washington Times’ White House credentials over columns Davis had written for the paper. “I couldn’t imagine why this call was made,” said Davis.

These accounts of White House press intimidation are nothing new. In my books “Crimes Against Liberty” and “The Great Destroyer,” I chronicle many other examples of this practice, which is especially bizarre given the unprecedented support the media have lavished upon Obama. Could fear of reprisals be part of the reason?

Let me share a few of the examples.

In “Crimes Against Liberty,” I relate the White House’s war on Fox News Channel, including Obama’s snubbing the network by refusing to call on Fox reporters at his press conferences because Fox wouldn’t kowtow to his demands to air his third prime-time presser. White House communications director Anita Dunn described Fox as “part of the Republican Party” and “opinion journalism masquerading as news” and recommended a “rapid response” to counteract “Fox’s blows” against the administration.

When the White House was upset with The Washington Post for running an op-ed from a Republican politician decrying Obama’s 32 czars without challenging it, the White House, according to Time magazine, developed a new strategy to attack pundits. “The White House decided it would become a player, issuing biting attacks on those pundits, politicians and outlets that make what the White House believes to be misleading or simply false claims.” Further, “Obama, fresh from his vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, cheered on the effort, telling his aides he wanted to ‘call ’em out.'”

The White House blog also began regularly denouncing the administration’s critics, but the most outrageous development was the reaction to all this by the White House press secretary at the time, Robert Gibbs, who said: “The only way to get somebody to stop crowding the plate is to throw a fastball at them. They move.”

In “The Great Destroyer,” I report that when the Pleasanton Weekly, a small newspaper in California, ran a story that reflected poorly on first lady Michelle Obama (she allegedly acted dismissively toward a Marine One pilot), a White House official asked the paper’s president to cut the reference from the article. The first lady’s press secretary denied contact with the paper, but the paper stuck by its story and removed the offending sentence “because it was not worth making a fuss over.”

The White House also reportedly banished the Boston Herald from an Obama event in Boston as punishment for printing a front-page op-ed by GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

When White House press secretary Jay Carney personally called MSNBC to object to certain comments political analyst Mark Halperin had made about Obama, MSNBC immediately suspended Halperin indefinitely, according to The Daily Caller.

The White House blacklisted San Francisco Chronicle reporter Carla Marinucci for posting to the Internet a cellphone video of protesters at an Obama fundraiser in the Bay Area. Characteristically, the White House denied it had threatened the banishment, but the Chronicle’s editor, Ward Bushee, stood by the story. Phil Bronstein, another Chronicle reporter, corroborated Bushee’s story. Also, numerous other journalists confirmed that the White House had issued implied threats of additional punishment if the story of its banishment of Marinucci became public.

And so it goes.