Did the Fox News strategy backfire?

Posted: Oct 21, 2009 7:00 AM

At first, the White House's strategy in regards to Fox News seemed simple. On Politico.com, Josh Gerstein and Mike Allen wrote that "the motivations of the White House are clear: Fire up a liberal base disillusioned with Obama by attacking the hated Fox. Try to keep a critical news outlet off-balance. Raise doubts about future Fox stories." This campaign against Fox News, which was stoked by the White House communications director and prolonged this past weekend on the Sunday news shows, is now seemingly backfiring on the White House.

Early last week, the campaign against Fox became much clearer thanks to White House communications director Anita Dunn. On CNN, Dunn attacked Fox News by comparing it to an "arm of the Republican Party". The Washington Post's Jason Horowitz recently wrote the following about that denunciation:

A source inside the White House, who was not authorized to speak about strategy meetings, said Dunn went out front against Fox first and foremost because it was her job, but also because it potentially gave the administration the opportunity to distance itself from the flap with the Roger Ailes-led news channel once she leaves the communications job.

(That article noted that Dunn is expected to leave her position at the end of this year.)

Dunn's criticism of Fox News might have only merited a few days' coverage. However, on the Sunday shows this past weekend, two members of the Obama administration reiterated Dunn's analysis. President Obama's chief of staff spoke about the feud with Fox News on CNN by saying that “I suppose the way to look at it and the way the president looks at it and we look at is: it’s not a news organization so much as it has a perspective." David Axelrod went on "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" ,where he seemingly agreed with that analysis. These two media appearences have prolonged the coverage and the analysis of the feud between Obama and Fox news. 
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Some liberals may be enjoying this ongoing feud but it seems like a backlash is now quickly building against it.

The Politico.com piece I quoted earlier in this piece began by noting that "A White House attempt to delegitimize Fox News – which in past times would have drawn howls of censorship from the press corps – has instead been greeted by a collective shrug." That collective shrug is no longer an accurate description of the press corp's reaction. 

Earlier this morning, Meredith Jessup wrote that Helen Thomas and Jake Tapper have stood up and either criticized or questioned the Obama-Fox News strategy. Instead of alienating Fox News, it seems like the White House has brought members of the media together. In addition to Thomas and Tapper, Jack Cafferty recently wrote a piece about the feud that began with "The Obama White House may have started another war it can't win" and Ruth Marcus from The Washington Post wrote a piece entitled Obama's Dumb War with Fox News.
If the White House presses further on this issue and continues to criticize that news network, it is likely that more media voices will speak up against this strategy especially because there are so many other important issues worthy of discussion that are being neglected by the White House because of its interest in attacking Fox.

Even if Anita Dunn leaves her post in the next few months as she is scheduled to do, the Obama White House has recently managed to bring many of the members of the news media together in criticizing them and its negative campaign against Fox. Although the Obama administration wants to bring people together, surely this was not the plan that they had in mind. 

(Make sure to check out NRO blogger Guy Benson's interesting view of the White House feud with Fox News by clicking here.)

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