The Fox News war: What's the upside for Obama?
Critics call the Obama administration's criticism of Fox News petty. But if it discredits the network in the eyes of moderates, the strategy might work.
The Obama administration has taken a fair amount of grief for its campaign to marginalize Fox News, saying the cable network is "not a news organization" but rather "the communications arm of the Republican Party."Skip to next paragraph
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Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus, not a fire-breathing conservative, calls it “dumb on multiple levels” – a distraction from policy messages, a boost to Fox ratings, and, she writes, “it deprives the White House, to the extent it refuses to provide administration officials to appear on the cable network, of access to an audience that is, in fact, broader than hardcore Obama-haters.”
Stephen Hess, a Brookings Institution scholar on White House press relations going back decades, says, “It makes them in the White House look terribly political, and political means petty in our lexicon.”
The White House has also opened itself up to charges that it is creating an “enemies list,” à la President Richard Nixon – a charge made on the Senate floor Wednesday by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R) of Tennessee, the No. 3 Republican in the Senate with a reputation for collegiality. He also cited recent administration criticism of the US Chamber of Commerce, the insurance industry, and the insurance company Humana, among others.
Still, could the administration have planted seeds that could pay dividends down the road? Perhaps, says Kathleen Hall Jamieson, director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
“If the White House could persuade moderates that any story originating with Fox is politically motivated and hence suspect, it might reduce the initial impact of Fox-generated content,” she says. “What the White House appears to be trying to do is reduce the migration of stories from Fox to other cable, broadcast, and print.”
Fox has gotten mileage recently with stories about community organizers ACORN and green jobs “czar” Van Jones, who resigned his White House post after Fox and other conservative media pushed aggressively on his past associations.
“There are two audiences here,” says liberal columnist David Sirota. “There’s the Fox audience, then there’s the rest of the news-consuming public. You’re never going to delegitimize Fox with the hardest of the hardcore base. But if you can delegitimize it in the eyes of the rest of the media, that impacts the rest of the news-consuming audience.”