The most notable fact about President Barack Obama’s Sunday morning media blitz has been that he is making the rounds of the networks’ news shows — except Fox News.
This has led Fox News’ Chris Wallace to go after the White House for being a bunch of crybabies and being thin skinned. But if Wallace expected a sudden invitation from the White House — he is wrong. He has been met with a declaration from a White House official that Fox could get a Presidential news visit in the future but that the “whining” won’t do it — coupled with a comment noting how Fox has decided not to air Obama’s appearances and put on entertainment instead. The Raw Story notes Wallace’s comment today:
“Every president is thin-skinned, but I wonder whether this administration, this White House, has a particular problem with criticism,” Wallace said.
And the White House response?
“We figured Fox would rather show So You Think You Can Dance than broadcast an honest discussion about health insurance reform,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told ABC News. Earnest was referring to the TV show FOX TV broadcast September 9 instead of the president’s speech.
“Fox is an ideological outlet where the president has been interviewed before and will likely be interviewed again,” Earnest told ABC. “Not that the whining particularly strengthens their case for participation any time soon.”
What we’re seeing is two moves at play here:
1. Fox News has become the hub for Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and others and de facto Ground Zero for the tali radio political culture which is now the Republican party’s dominant force. Its non news network Fox has with great fanfare decided to pass on key Obama news events that other networks cover grudgingly, since telecasting Obama’s press conferences and speeches live cost networks big bucks in a time of decreasing network revenues. But even if not officially acknowledged as such Fox’s highly publicized-in-news-reports noncoverage has been a political statement on Fox’s part — a signal to Republicans in its viewership that it is sending a message to Obama and to and the White House. NOTE: The other networks could soon get tired of having their schedules interrupted and balk as well. But the context for their decision will be seen as different than Fox’s.
2. Obama and the White House are clearly responding by making a decision that its response will be to isolate Fox from the rest of the news media and also from some others in the Republican party. Today he went on all of the networks (even Univision) and will be on David Letterman on Monday. He also made a point to appear on the conservative Michael Smerconish Program because Smerconish — one of the talk show hosts whose program doesn’t consist of demonization of rip and read RNC talking points. So Obama can’t be accused of only going on progressive talk shows (the way Vice President Dick Cheney seemed to only go on talk radio political culture conservative talkers’ shows and Fox News). Obama and the White House are making their statement, too: that Fox News is ideological in a blantant kind of way and they’ll deal with mainstream networks, ethnic-audience networks, and conservative talkers who aren’t in Sean Hannity/Glenn Beck mode.
This can escalate — but the real winner will the other networks and conservative talkers who may sway Obama to appear on their show if they seem to be ready to talk actual substance and even pepper him with hard, questions on health care and other issues, rather than ask Obama about his birth certificate, Reverend Wright or how long he has been a student of Karl Marx.
FOOTNOTE: This has not been a good week for Fox News’ image as a news organization rather than an ideological infooutlet. First came the controversy over the ad that wrongly stated the other networks missed the anti-Obama demonstrations in Washington. Next came Obama’s network appearance-fest. And now comes a White House comment not letting Wallace’s assertions stand but, rather, answering them yet leaving open the possibility of an appearance on Fox.
PREDICTION: If Obama appears on Fox he would most likely appear on O’Reilly’s Show. During the Presidential campaign, O’Reilly put on his journalist’s hat (he is an excellent mainstream journalist when he wants to be one) and interviewed Obama. It was a solid, good, professional interview. He recently indicated he now supports the public option – a sharp contrast to other Fox hosts who paint Obama’s and Democratic proposals as the destruction of the American health care system.
UPDATE: Here’s another Fox News-related incident that will raise eyebrows galore among many journalism professors.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.