In November of 2002, Washington Post reporter-editor Bob Woodward unveiled excerpts of his latest book, "Bush at War," and caused a big stir by revealing that Fox News boss Roger Ailes had sent a confidential memo to the George W. Bush White House after 9/11 insisting the president stay tough against the terrorists.
NBC "Meet The Press" host Tim Russert, who revolved into TV news from Mario Cuomo's office, spoke for his industry when he asserted, "I would not recommend that behavior for any practicing journalist." One can only imagine the furor had Fox News hosts actually entered the White House gates to participate in a Bush administration publicity event designed to promote public policy.
Today, this is a routine occurrence. The liberal media routinely swarm the Obama administration. The Ailes-bashing ethicists have long forgotten all that outrage.
On Monday, the Obama White House held a "Working Families Summit" sponsored by the liberal Center for American Progress, the Labor Department and the White House Council on Women and Girls. Look at how cozy the networks were with this.
Claire Shipman of ABC News co-moderated a panel with Katty Kay of the BBC on "A 21st Century Economy that Works for Business and Workers." Shipman hasn't been as present on the air at ABC since her husband Jay Carney became President Barack Obama's press secretary three years ago. No matter. Before Obama (and somewhat Bill Clinton, too) it was considered too close for comfort. A reporter married to the White House press secretary would just recuse herself from going to that venue.
Robin Roberts of ABC News also appeared on the program, alongside First Lady Michelle Obama. ABC News claimed Roberts is interviewing the first lady in a session that has "no parameters, no restrictions." Nonsense. We cannot recall an interview that Roberts has given the Obamas that sounded anything but docile.
This is the typical Roberts-to-first-lady no-parameters question ABC put on the air the next morning: "One thing that really touched a lot of people is when he (the president) said, yes, you are a strong woman, a strong mother, a strong wife.' But that early in the marriage, to see you break down in tears -- because you were trying to juggle so much."
MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski moderated a panel titled, "Career Ladders and Leadership."
An MSNBC source told the Washington Post that "Mika's participation in the WH Summit on Working Families summit was approved by MSNBC. It's in line with her 'Knowing Your Value' platform, and she's been transparent with viewers about her involvement."
This isn't Brzezinski first rodeo with the Obamas. She also appeared at a White House women's event in April of 2012. This April, she sat next to top aide Valerie Jarrett in the East Room and helped Obama sell a "Paycheck Fairness Act" for women. The next day on MSNBC, she said it was "like a church revival," and every time the president touted equal pay for women, "there'd be clapping, and like almost 'praise Jesus!' It was fun."
NBC doubled down on its non-independence by airing a positive news story on the Obama "working families summit" from new White House reporter Chris Jansing -- without any mention of MSNBC's moderator. It happened again the next morning, as NBC newsreader Natalie Morales hailed "a lot of good talk at the White House yesterday." How is this not a crystal-clear conflict of interest?
Ailes can only watch this whole Obama parade/charade and shake his head. So many ethicists who thought his note to Karl Rove was amazingly unethical seemed to retire from judging the media's independence.