George W. Bush, America's editor in chief

The president pressures editors to kill negative stories.

By Michelle Goldberg

Published December 26, 2005 3:31PM (EST)

Bush may not read newspapers, but apparently he cares a lot about what goes into them. In today's Washington Post, Howard Kurtz writes, "President Bush has been summoning newspaper editors lately in an effort to prevent publication of stories he considers damaging to national security." Newsweek's Jonathan Alter has already reported on how Bush met with New York Times editor Bill Keller to try and quash that paper's explosive story about warrantless wiretapping. Apparently, the president also called in The Washington Post's Leonard Downie Jr. to try and kill Dana Priest's hugely important scoop about secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe.

"The efforts have failed, but the rare White House sessions with the executive editors of The Washington Post and New York Times are an indication of how seriously the president takes the recent reporting that has raised questions about the administration's anti-terror tactics," Kurtz writes. Of course, it's hard not to wonder whether any other White House attempts to strong-arm journalists have succeeded -- after all, The Times held the eavesdropping story for a year. What other revelations are being sat on? And what does it mean for America when we can't count on reporters to tell us what they know?

Michelle Goldberg

Michelle Goldberg is a frequent contributor to Salon and the author of "Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism" (WW Norton).

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