White House Press Corps veteran Helen Thomas has warned that the White House shouldn't "kill the messenger." And now ABC News' Jake Tapper is also pressuring the White House to answer for its attacks on the cable news network. During a WH press conference Tuesday, Tapper had the following exchange with press secretary Robert Gibbs:
Tapper: It's escaped none of our notice that the White House has decided in the last few weeks to declare one of our sister organizations "not a news organization" and to tell the rest of us not to treat them like a news organization. Can you explain why it's appropriate for the White House to decide that a news organization is not one --Translation: the White House can say whatever it darn well feels like saying and there's no need to question it.
Gibbs: Jake, we render, we render an opinion based on some of their coverage and the fairness that, that fairness of that coverage.
Tapper: But that's a pretty sweeping declaration that they are "not a news organization." How are they any different from, say --
Gibbs: ABC --
Tapper: ABC. MSNBC. Univision. I mean how are they any different?
Gibbs: You and I should watch sometime around 9 o'clock tonight. Or 5 o'clock this afternoon.
Tapper: I'm not talking about their opinion programming or issues you have with certain reports. I'm talking about saying thousands of individuals who work for a media organization, do not work for a "news organization" -- why is that appropriate for the White House to say?
Gibbs: That's our opinion.
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It doesn't look like Tapper was able to press him more, but Gibbs' response--which specifically mentions commentators Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity's time slots--conflicts with communications director Anita Dunn's previous assertions about Fox News. During a recent interview with CNN, Dunn claimed Fox was a "research arm of the Republican Party," but was careful to differentiate between commentary analysis shows like Hannity and Beck, and news programming, including reports from people like Fox White House correspondent Major Garrett:
CNN: Take Major Garrett, he's the White House correspondent for Fox News. Do you think he's fair? Do you think he's masquerading as a news man?
Dunn: I will say, and I have done this in my interviews... I have differentiated between Major Garrett who we view as a very good correspondent, and his network and Major knows this. Major came to talk to me when we didn't include Chris [Wallace] in the round of Sunday shows and I told Major quite honestly that we had told Chris Wallace that having fact-checked an administration guest on his show, something I had never seen a Sunday show do... we asked Chris for an example of where he had done that to anybody besides someone from the administration in the year 2009 and we are still waiting to hear from him. When they want to treat us like they want to treat everyone else... Let's be realistic here Howie, they are widely viewed as part of the Republican party, take their talking points and put them on the air, take their opposition research and put it on the air, and that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is.
CNN: And you are making a distinction, just before we move on, between the opinion guys, O'Reilly, Hannity, Glenn Beck and people like Major Garrett.
Dunn: Yes, I'm not talking about people like Major Garrett. I'm talking about the overall programming.