The White House habit of attacking the press, which America finally became familiar with after Bob Woodward complained about it a few weeks ago, was on full display in the briefing room Tuesday as Press Secretary Jay Carney incorrectly accused Fox News White House correspondent Ed Henry of editorializing.
Henry asked Carney a question about a decision within the Department of Homeland Security to postpone furloughs of border patrol agents. In February, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano appeared in the briefing room issuing dire warnings that if the sequester goes into effect, the hours of work cut back would amount to the loss of “up to 5,000 border patrol agents.”
Carney responded with a typical – and in this case skillfully applied – White House press secretary tactic: change the subject and the question to something else. But he also sought to turn the tables by making the questioner seem the bad guy, rather than an administration that had changed its tune and been misleading.
Henry just as skillfully parried back, repeatedly yanking the focus back to the White House’s changing sequester narrative.
Here’s the key portion of the exchange.
After acknowledging furloughs of border patrol agents may take place a little later, Carney attacked:
CARNEY: . . . but feel free to convey to your readers and viewers that the sequester doesn’t matter. And then —
HENRY: Okay, well, first of all, let me just stop you, because I didn’t say it didn’t matter.
CARNEY: — and explain — nobody said it wasn’t dire.
HENRY: I said that the Secretary came in here and said that we were going to be less safe, that people were going to be crossing the border because there are less Border Patrol agents. And then they announced yesterday, actually, we’re not doing that. So I’m not saying it’s not important. I’m saying, did she mislead the public?
CARNEY: Absolutely not. And I’m saying that this is — I mean, you’re editorializing enormously in that, but the —
HENRY: How so? February — I’ll give you — February 25th she said, “If you have 5,000 fewer Border Patrol hours or agents, you have 5,000 fewer Border Patrol agents. That has a real impact.” Those are her words. That’s not politicizing.
CARNEY: Right. And how is that not the case?
HENRY: They announced yesterday they’re not doing that.
CARNEY: Well, but there are reductions. And whether it’s those Border Patrol —
HENRY: Well, what are they?
CARNEY: Go ahead and report that, Ed. We’ve made clear, look —
HENRY: Okay, she said 5,000. They said yesterday, we’re not doing that.
CARNEY: Talk to those who have been laid off at defense industries. Talk to those who have been furloughed in the —
HENRY: Let’s talk about Border Patrol first.
Here’s some video of the exchange: