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Opinion: Oops... Is Obama Having a Britney-level Media Meltdown?

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 - 11:49 AM

President Barack Obama (Steve Jurvetson/flickr)

You knew that Britney Spears was in trouble when she shaved her head and started chasing paparazzi with an umbrella. But she’s not the last to compensate for a career meltdown with unhinged contempt for the media. The latest is Barack Obama.

Take White House spokesman Jay Carney’s claim last Thursday to know “three women” named Hilary B. Rosen in a transparent attempt to deflect charges that Rosen, a CNN contributor who’d just insulted Mitt Romney’s wife Ann, is a frequent White House visitor.

You’d have to be stupid to believe that. But it’s just one example of a troubled White House that seems to have little respect for the people who cover it.

Here’s another one: 

On April 3, Obama lectured reporters for covering Republican opposition to his latest budget proposal. "I think that there is oftentimes the impulse to suggest that if two parties are disagreeing… the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and an equivalence is presented," he said at the AP luncheon. "This is not one of those situations where there's an equivalence."

He’s right about that. There IS no “equivalence.” The House had just rejected his budget 414-0.

And in spring 2009, he lectured some more on their skeptical coverage of his almost non-existent spending cuts. "It's important...as you're writing up these stories, to recognize that $17 billion...is significant." How significant?

It made up 0.5 percent of a $3.5 trillion budget - break out the champagne! 

Obama’s condescending attitude seems to come from his supposed belief, genuine or not, that the media have a Republican tilt and that his own team has to counter it. He’s not alone in thinking that either. NPR’s Frank James reported over the weekend on data showing Republicans at their “most conservative” since 1912. His conclusion seems to be that Obama has a case.

And that might explain the “Truth Teams” that Obama’s re-election campaign dispatched to counter Republican attacks and spread the word about his record. It might also explain Obama’s supposed conviction that biased media coverage has helped to temper public support for his signature “accomplishments” like Obamacare.  

There are some media pros at the White House. Carney used to be Washington Bureau Chief for Time magazine. But these are the last people who should be lecturing reporters on news judgment.

On April 9, for instance, while an NSC official was complaining to Politico that the press had been “co-opted” as a North Korean propaganda machine for covering North Korea’s missile launch, the White House put out nine press releases on...our partnership with Brazil. No offense to Brazil, BTW. I loved the movie Anaconda; it takes place on the Amazon.

But that merits A press release – two, tops.

Another example:

On that same morning in 2009 when Obama lectured reporters on the tone of their budget coverage, his press office posted news releases on a $10.3 million EPA grant for "economic development" in Michigan and Joe Biden's trip to see a bridge and traffic signal upgrade in New Jersey.

Extra! Extra!

Want to read all about it?

Me either.

Obama has to tout his accomplishments. I get that. But Jake Tapper was right last month when he called out the White House for undermining “aggressive journalism.” It stonewalls Freedom of Information requests. It prosecutes government whistle-blowers at an unprecedented rate. It even dropped its own Open Government Initiative.

Out: posting bills online before the president signs them. 

In: ‘We have to pass this bill to find out what’s in it.’

Obama HAS gotten a lot of bad press. But he’s also been involved in one ruinous political episode after another from the credit downgrade to the debt explosion and the Supreme Court’s reviewing Obamacare. That’s what made him break his umbrella out.

The media just report it.

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Comments [3]

Wayne C from New Jersey

"The media just report it." This seems to be the sum total of the response when legitimate criticism is leveled at many reporters. I agree with much of the criticism of the Obama administration's failure to live up to its promise of transparency and its continuation of many Bush era policies they railed against during the campaign. But, the virtual universal adoption of the term "Obamacare" by the press and failure to challenge incorrect and misleading statements by either side make it complicit in the politicization of issues that it should, instead, be providing context for in the form of facts and factual terminology. If you don't feel that that 5th press release is is news don't publish it. Or, challenge them on why they are issuing so many and publish the response. In other words, if you are just parroting inaccuracies and excesses it's not reporting and you are contributing to the very problem you are complaining about.

Apr. 18 2012 11:50 AM
listener

Perhaps even the news media have their limits in how far and long they are willing to carry water for a President who now abuses their bias for him and takes it for granted.
The news media are technically not part of his election team to be ordered around and all need to be reminded of that fact.

Apr. 18 2012 10:24 AM
JB from NYC

the media is not biased toward republicans, it's biased toward "equivalence," as you alluded to Obama referencing. for better or worse, the media has no choice in the matter. what else are they supposed to do? if they call one side outlandish on any particular issue, they would appear to be truly biased.

however, it is fully within the scope of PR to push back when their opponents' absurd positions are given credence by an ostensibly "objective" media. it doesn't mean the media is conservative or liberal.

Apr. 17 2012 04:48 PM

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