Karl Rove, media critic

Karl Rove criticized the press for rushing to judgment on government initiatives -- especially those that originate in the White House.

Published April 20, 2005 7:41PM (EDT)

Karl Rove certainly has gall. The don of White House message manipulation said the press is suffering from a dearth of accurate, substantive reporting -- especially where it concerns the president. "We are substituting the shrill and rapid call of the track announcer for calm judgment, fact and substance," Rove told an audience of students at Washington College Monday. His lecture was titled "Polarized Press: Media and Politics in the Age of Bush."

Rove said the press has a tendency to create conflict where none exists. In particular, he said, the media has portrayed President Bush's No Child Left Behind and Social Security reform programs too negatively, according to the Associated Press.

Rove denied the White House was to blame for shutting out reporters with its unshakeable "on-message" strategy. He even went so far as to call for "greater mutual understanding on the parts of both press and government" and said the press should understand "how easy it is to make mistakes" in government. But as the Washington Post's Dana Milbank pointed out, "[T]he president has been famously unwilling to acknowledge mistakes."

Milbank also noted that Rove makes the press's treatment of Bush's education plan in 2001 "sound far more cynical than it really was. He blasted the Houston Chronicle and The Post for falsely stating that Bush's education plan in 2001 was 'stalled' and 'bogged down' in the Senate -- but he didn't mention that both reports made clear the delay was only a week. He condemned the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for headlining its article after House passage of the bill, 'Bush plan to face more challenges.' But the report's main headline said, 'House keeps tests in education bill,' and it began by saying "President Bush's education reform plan easily weathered a challenge."

The last surprise of the evening? The press may be unfair but it's not partisan. It's "less liberal than it is oppositional," said Rove, who admitted he listens to National Public Radio.

By Julia Scott

San Francisco-based freelance journalist Julia Scott writes about water and energy issues for various publications. She also covers the environment for Bay Area News Group, a chain of newspapers in Northern California.

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