Just a little over a week ago, I wrote a column about the decaying standards among journalists, and I happened to mention Bob Woodward as the sort of journalistic role model that used to be held up to budding reporters to emulate.
So it’s troubling confirmation of the fall of American journalism to watch how the so-called news media are ganging up on Woodward just because he questioned the Obama White House’s narrative about the sequestration cuts.
In case you missed it, Woodward’s initial sin was to point out that Obama was wrong to blame Republicans for the $85 billion in cuts that the White House maintains will be a disaster for America. As Woodward correctly pointed out, sequestration was President Obama’s idea, pushed by his White House, he watched it pass Congress, and he signed it into law.
Woodward also pointed out that Obama was “moving the goal posts” by demanding higher taxes as part of any deal with Congress to stop the sequestration cuts, which technically kicked in Thursday but aren’t likely to be enacted for several weeks. The original sequestration deal did not ask for tax hikes.
Then, when the president announced he was redeploying military forces because of the sequestration cuts, Woodward blasted the president, calling the move “madness.”
Woodward happened to mention publicly that he was then yelled at by a White House staffer who also sent him an email saying he would “regret this.”
The White House issued a denial, leaked the name of the staffer to its favorite media outlets, and the lapdogs were off and running, with so-called reporters calling Woodward senile, crazy or, the best one, amateurish for questioning the narrative that blames Republicans. It should be noted that Politico confirmed the details of Woodward’s account of the origins of sequestration.
Then the media jumped on him for allegedly complaining about the “threat” from the White House, many of the wannabes saying they’d been threatened with worse many times by PR flacks. The implication was that Woodward was some kind of rube, newbie journalist who cries when someone ruffles his feathers.
Anyone familiar with Bob Woodward should know better.
First, Woodward never used the word “threat.” Here’s what he said to Politico: “I’ve tangled with lots of these people. 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, tremble. I don’t think it’s the way to operate.”
It’s a legitimate complaint, but that sort of behavior is what many people have come to expect from this White House.
Second, this Administration does, in fact, make a habit of threatening reporters. Case in point, in 2011, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci included a video of protesters at an Obama event with her report. Before you could say “crowd control,” a White House staffer was on the phone chewing out editor Phil Bronstein, threatening to remove Marinucci’s credentials and those of other Hearst reporters.
The White House then denied making a threat, so editor Ward Bushee released a statement: “Sadly, we expected the White House to respond in this manner based on our experiences yesterday. It is not a truthful response. It follows a day of off-the-record exchanges with key people in the White House communications office who told us they would remove our reporter, then threatened retaliation to Chronicle and Hearst reporters if we reported on the ban, and then recanted to say our reporter might not be removed after all.”
Lanny Davis, a Democrat who served as special counsel under Clinton, told WMAL that the White House threatened the Washington Times over several of his columns. Davis, who is an Obama supporter, said editor John Solomon took the phone call from a senior White House staffer who threatened to yank Solomon’s credentials and those of his reporters if he continued to run Davis’ columns.
Apparently, threatening reporters is such a common tactic for the White House that The Week’s Marc Ambinder, in trying to attack Woodward, admitted, “The White House threatens reporters. A lot.”
None of this, apparently, bothers Obama’s supporters in the media.
I’ve seen this sort of thing before, where reporters bend over for a source who is particularly obnoxious and demanding but whose position makes them too “valuable” to news outlets to lose. The results are never good. The reporters end up doing just as we see with the Obama media, carrying the water for some agenda and losing sight of the larger picture.
The only cure for that sort of a situation is for reporters to stand up and speak the truth, access be damned.
That’s not likely to happen with the current crop of wannabe newsies, who collectively aren’t fit to shine Woodward’s shoes, much less wear them.