Washington Post reporter Paul Farhi today published a good piece on the press bullying tactics of the Obama West Wing, which is categorically the most vicious operation I have seen in 14 years covering the White House.
As I’ve reported before, the White House intentionally bullies reporters on a regular basis over stories they don’t like but know full well are legitimate pieces, hoping to get inside journalists’ heads and either get them not to do the current story or make them think twice before doing something similar.
The attacks are voluble and often laced with profanity, sullying the great building in which these people are privileged to work.
Interestingly, only a couple of regular West Wing reporters agreed to be quoted on the record about the abuse.
My fearless friend Julie Mason, who has long covered the White House and hosts a superb talk show on POTUS Sirius XM Radio from 12-3 weekdays, offered a characteristically direct assessment.
“They shoot first and ask questions later,” said Julie Mason . . . In one of the e-mails that reporters have dubbed “nastygrams,” White House press secretary Jay Carney branded one of Mason’s stories “partisan, inflammatory and tendentious.” National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor, reacting to comments Mason made in a TV discussion, sent her an e-mail that included an animated picture of a crying mime — a visual suggestion that she was whining.
Carl Cannon, another veteran of the White House press corps who is now Washington editor and a columnist for RealClearPolitics, was also unafraid of rubbing the White House the wrong way.
Carl Cannon . . . says he recently got zinged. After his site posted a headline and video of President Obama promoting a political fundraising raffle at the White House in June — which Republicans said could be a violation of campaign-finance law — Cannon heard about it in no uncertain terms. A deputy press official let loose “a screaming, profane diatribe that lasted two or three phone calls,” Cannon recalled. “It hurt my ear.”
Cannon and other reporters are convinced that the tough language and immediate response is part of a strategy. “It’s clear to me that [Obama’s media operation] looks at the press differently than anyone who was there before. The majority of reporters are trying to play it straight and get the story right, but they divide the world into two camps — they either favor you or try to punish you, depending if they see you as friend or foe.”
George Condon of National Journal, a cheerfully no-nonsense veteran White House reporter, was polite but left little doubt what he thinks.
Condon . . . says some of the interactions he has witnessed make this White House “different to a degree than what I’ve seen from earlier White Houses.” After a colleague wrote a column that was critical of Obama this year, he was hammered by e-mailed criticism from media officials, even though the president and much of his communications staff were in London at the time, Condon said.
A couple of reporters, Jake Tapper of ABC and Glenn Thrush of Politico said they didn’t really mind and minimized the problem. I don’t agree with them in the least.
Getting angry over an unfair story is one thing, and something other White House’s have certainly done. But the Obama people have moved beyond this to actual suppression of speech, a thuggish approach to intimidating reporters more worthy a petty Third World dictatorship than the White House.