Is the White House trying to pick another fight with Fox News?

At time of crisis, press aide seems most intent on partisan jabs at Ed Henry

July 27, 2011|By David Zurawik | The Baltimore Sun

I vowed I was not going to get involved again the next time the Obama White House went after Fox News.

And I kept to that promise Tuesday when Jay Carney, White House press secretary, took a nasty and totally uncalled for shot at Ed Henry during the former CNN White House correspondent's first press briefing in his new job at Fox News.

Carney gave voice to the administration's long-held narrative that the Fox News agenda is determined not by journalistic values, but rather "talking points" from the Republican Party -- that Fox is a propaganda wing of the party, not a "legitimate" news organization.

The back and forth started with Henry asking a legitimate question: Where was the so-called "Obama Plan" on the debt ceiling. If the president has one, why has it not been released publicly.

"I understand the idea that there is not an Obama plan is like point number one on the talking points issued by the Republican Party," Carney said sarcastically.

"It's not a talking point," Henry said firmly but politely. "That's unfair. Where is the plan?"

I let it slide thinking it might have just been an error in judgment by a press aide under a lot of stress.

But Wednesday, Carney came right back again when Henry tried to ask a question, accusing Henry of trying to create a moment of conflict for the sake of Fox News viewers.

"I mean, I know you're creating a thing here for Fox," Carney said when Henry pushed him for an answer Wednesday, again attributing motive to the reporter's questions in away that was never done to my knowledge when Henry was with CNN.

Henry again responded professionally saying, "That's not what I'm doing. You know better than that."

Here's the exchange on video, and here is what I think: Instead of doing the job to which he was elected and coming up with a way to avoid the first default in this nation's history, President Obama has his senior aides on the attack looking for ways to make this into a partisan battle even in the press room.

Such a  fight with Fox might divert many voters from scrutinizing the administration's flawed performance so far on the debt crisis. That kind of partisan mindset in the White House is one of the reasons we are in such a sorry, polarized state of paralysis as a nation today.

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