In response to a complaint by the Boston Herald about the limited access its staff would have to President Obama during his visit to Boston, Matt Lehrich, an Obama aide, attributed the treatment to the White House’s objections to a front page opinion article by former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in which he attacked the administration’s job-creation record. “I think that raises a fair question about whether the paper is unbiased in its coverage of the president’s visits,” Lehrich told the Herald in an email.
And maybe it does. Then again, there is a mountain of evidence that hundreds of media outlets, including four of the five major TV news organizations, the New York Times, The Washington Post, and many others, are also biased in their coverage of everything this president does–favorably. Apparently the White House, which has already disgraced itself by repeatedly attacking the one critical network by name for the state offense of not falling into line, can’t abide the fact that some print journalists are as prone to be critical of him as Chris Matthews is likely to get tingles up his leg every time Obama opens his mouth. Their response? Make it harder for the unfavorably biased journalists to cover the news.
Rewarding fawning, pro-administration reporters and papers is an annoying tradition in Washington but hard to condemn; it’s a bit much to expect politicians to like being covered by ideological foes. But punishing the nay-sayers is something else, and the something else is called “chilling freedom of the press.” The message Obama’s punishment of the Herald sends is this: “Print what we like ( or say…or tell you) and you’ll be rewarded. Don’t, and see what happens.” It’s not in the same category as throwing editors in prison, like our pals the Chinese. It isn’t consistent with American rights and values, either.
It is telling, is it not, that virtually no news organizations are defending the Herald or even reporting the story, except for Fox, of course. Are they cowed, biased, or both? I almost gave MSNBC Angry Left sneerer Lawrence O’Donnell an Ethics Hero for criticizing the White House for punishing the Herald, but his tepid message was that the Obamaites should “grow up.” “Grow up?” How about, “Start respecting the freedom of the press,” or “Stop abusing your power”?
Maybe “grow up” is the best O’Donnell can muster at MSNBC because most of his fans don’t like freedom of the press either, at least when it is wielded by conservatives. Many of the comments on this story in the Huffington Post should give pause to anyone who believes “It can’t happen here.”
Increasingly, it seems to me, a favored tactic of the stalwarts, in the media and out of it, of the Obama administration is to try to silence critics rather than rebut them. This takes many forms: intimidation by labeling all criticism as proof of racism; using distorted definitions of civility to induce self-censorship, as with the “No Labels” effort and the attacks on Sarah Palin in the aftermath of the Tucson shooting; denying appropriate news coverage to stories illustrating the Administration’s copious missteps and shortcomings; and even calls for regulatory censorship of talk radio and Fox News on the theory that they are harmful and dangerous. This trend is disturbing. For the President of the United States to preside over efforts at news media intimidation is more than disturbing; it is frightening.
But then, almost nobody is reporting it.
I wonder why.