But they know deep down that President Obama still loves them, and that it was kind of even their fault anyway. The New York Post's Maureen Callahan chronicles the abusive and intimidating tactics the current administration employs against the press:
This administration is more skilled and disciplined than any other in controlling the narrative, using social media to circumnavigate the press. On the flip side, our YouTube culture means even the slightest gaffe can be devastating, and so you have an army of aides and staffers helicoptering over reporters. Finally, this week, reporters are pushing back. Even Jonathan Alter — who frequently appears on the Obama-friendly MSNBC — came forward to say he, too, had been treated horribly by the administration for writing something they didn’t like. “There is a kind of threatening tone that, from time to time — not all the time — comes out of these guys,” Alter said this week. During the 2008 campaign swing through Berlin, Alter said that future White House press secretary Robert Gibbs disinvited him from a dinner between Obama and the press corps over it. “I was told ‘Don’t come,’ in a fairly abusive e-mail,” he said. “[It] made what Gene Sperling wrote [to Woodward] look like patty-cake.” “I had a young reporter asking tough, important questions of an Obama Cabinet secretary,” says one DC veteran. “She was doing her job, and they were trying to bully her. In an e-mail, they called her the vilest names — bitch, c--t, a--hole.” He complained and was told the matter would be investigated: “They were hemming and hawing, saying, ‘We’ll look into it.’ Nothing happened.” He wound up confronting the author of the e-mail directly. “I said, ‘From now on, every e-mail you send this reporter will be on the record, and you will be speaking on behalf of the president of the United States.’ That shut it down.”
One correspondent says that when he inquired about a staging choice for the president’s speech, he was steamrolled. “There was one specific White House aide calling me up, yelling and screaming,” he says. “It was condescending and abrasive: ‘Why is this a story? Why are you doing this? This is of no consequence. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.’” This went on for two days. “All I wanted,” says the reporter, “was an answer to a question. It’s not like I was looking to do a 12-page exposé to take down an aide. It was unnecessary vociferousness.” He eventually got his statement. Another White House correspondent says that last week’s blowup over pool reporters’ access to the president’s golf game with Tiger Woods — which was none — is indicative of a larger problem. “Today’s a perfect example,” he says. “Jack Lew is sworn in” — as US Treasury secretary, on Thursday — “and they didn’t even allow a photographer in there. A reporter asked [press secretary] Jay Carney why, and his answer was, ‘It’s a family ceremony.’ No! This is a high-ranking government official whose salary is paid for by taxpayers. No.” “This administration has tools to reach people on their own,” CBS White House correspondent Bill Plante said this week. “They don’t need us as much. And to the extent that they’re able to do that, they’re undercutting the First Amendment, which guarantees a free press through many voices. If they put out their own material, it’s state-run media.”
So Team Obama isn't averse to punishing even overtly friendly media figures who step out of line, and the president who pushed a "war on women" meme in his re-election campaign employs high-level advisors who call female journalists the C-word for asking inconvenient questions. Hope and change. National Journal's Ron Fournier wrote last week about an escalating series of emails he received from a senior White House official, which eventually became so vitriolic that Fournier decided to "ice" -- or cut off -- the source altogether. In justifying both that decision and his choice to go public, Fournier cited the administration's successful bullying of younger reporters:
I changed the rules of our relationship, first, because it was a waste of my time (and the official’s government-funded salary) to engage in abusive conversations. Second, I didn’t want to condone behavior that might intimidate less-experienced reporters, a reaction I personally witnessed in journalists covering the Obama administration.
This was the same concern Bob Woodward raised when he initially told CNN's Wolf Blitzer about the infamous "regret" email: "I've tangled with lots of these people," he said. "But suppose there's a young reporter who's only had a couple of years — or 10 years' — experience and the White House is sending him an email saying, 'You're going to regret this.' You know, tremble, tremble. I don't think it's the way to operate." Though the context of the email exchange between Woodward and Gene Sperling clearly diminished the severity of the "threat" involved, subsequent anecdotes and confessions from other journalists have vindicated Woodward's critique of the White House press shop's culture and standard operating procedures. This isn't about one controversial email; it's about a pattern of behavior -- to say nothing of the Obama gang's subsequent campaign to marginalize and malign Woodward's reputation. Allahpundit notices that even the media whistle-blowers exhibit a strange compulsion to go out of their way to distance Obama himself from the sleazy actions of his top staff: "[Fournier] ends, as did Woodward and as any indictment of White House boorishness evidently must as a matter of professional obligation, by noting that St. Barack would surely frown upon such treatment — even though Obama chooses to surround himself with people like Rahm Emanuel and Fournier’s source and he not-so-secretly disdains the media despite their adulation of him." Yes, because surely St. Barack would never condone such boorish and acerbic treatment of reporters, right? Ahem:
It's not quite eight in the morning and Barack Obama is on the phone screaming at me. He liked the story I wrote about him a couple weeks ago, but not this garbage. Months earlier, a reporter friend told me she overheard Obama call me an a--hole at a political fund-raiser. Now here he is blasting me from hundreds of miles away for a story that just went online but hasn't yet hit local newsstands. It's the first time I ever heard him yell, and I'm trembling as I set down the phone. I sit frozen at my desk for several minutes, stunned.
Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson. He is co-authors with Mary Katharine Ham for their new book End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Industry Shuts Down Debate, Manipulates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun).
Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography
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