This might come as a shock, but “fair and balanced” Fox News isn’t particularly fond of the Obama administration. Underwhelmed? Naturally. But the Obama administration is acting as though this is some sort of epiphany. For over a week, the notoriously conservative-skewing news organization has been locked in a war of words with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, communications director Anita Dunn and senior adviser David Axelrod. And the kicker is, it’s more snide remarks than substance.
Even though White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs has mostly kept the administration playing nice with the media, calling out Fox News on their brand of pseudo-journalism doesn’t seem too detrimental on the surface. In fact, some might be rooting for the degradation of ‘Faux News.’ But amid a massive health care debate and dropping approval ratings, the administration should be on its best behavior. A tit-for-tat tiff is the last thing Obama needs right now.
“[Fox] is not a news organization so much as it has a perspective,” Emanuel said on CNN’s State of the Union. I agree completely, but then again I’m not the chief of staff for the most powerful man in the country. When someone as influential as Bulldog Rahm says it, a whole new level of cattiness is achieved. Dunn called Fox “an arm of the Republican Party,” also on State of the Union. Old news, Anita. Plus, the Democrats have their own appendage – it’s called MSNBC. She later told The New York Times that the administration would “treat them the way we would treat an opponent” – hardly a fair fight.
The White House probably thinks that its valiant whining efforts will be met with great support. Finally, someone has the guts to stand up to big, bad Fox News. They’re making a statement and asserting their power. But what they fail to realize is that the administration is only hurting itself by pulling a Regina George on Fox. By shaking a stick at the media, the administration is just giving those who cry ‘Obamunism!’ more fuel for their fire.
“It’s really not news — it’s pushing a point of view. And the bigger thing is that other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way, and we’re not going to treat them that way,” Axelrod told ABC’s This Week. When the most powerful players not only single out a media source but go so far as to tell other organizations such as CNN and MSNBC to reject them, it makes people wary of our government officials. Some of the more extreme Obama naysayers might even argue that the administration is stifling Fox’s freedom of speech in their defensive attack.
It won’t be long till Americans take statements like, “There is something very disturbing about the Obama administration fighting harder against Fox News than the Taliban” to heart. If one is already suspicious about the administration, Bill O’Reilly’s seemingly ridiculous comment could actually incite some real negative fervor toward Obama. The president says that he doesn’t have much to worry about, but as long as Fox milks this fight, he will be judged unfairly.
All the drama has put the commander in chief in an awkward position. Realizing that he would not be able to win this fight, Obama stepped out of the spotlight and declined to go on Chris Wallace’s show. The snub was discussed on The O’Reilly Factor: “He just doesn’t like you,” O’Reilly joked with Wallace. “No, he doesn’t like you too!” said Wallace with a laugh. They’re loving this. And Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. chairman, is also relishing in the fact that the feud has “tremendously increased their ratings.” So who is this all really benefiting? Certainly not the administration, supposedly founded upon the idea of open communication and cooperation.
The Obama administration has a right to defend itself — to an extent. But after a while, their credibility suffers on both sides of the aisle. Without respect from the general public, getting support for the tasks ahead become immensely more difficult. How can an administration give the appearance of strength when it can’t handle some trash talk from Glenn Beck?
In an interview with Wallace just a few months ago, Obama said, “I don’t always get my most favorable coverage on Fox, but I think that’s part of how democracy is supposed to work. You know, we’re not supposed to all be in lock step here.” Good for you, Barack. You don’t need to be sipping on Rahm’s Haterade. But where has that good-natured spirit gone? Let O’Reilly hate-monger, let Hannity blather on, but most of all, just let them all be. Why now and why bother, I say. So thanks for the entertainment, guys, but if I want a good catfight, I’ll stick to Real Housewives.