White House declares war on Fox News

A senior administration official tells CNN the conservative network isn't really a news channel

Published October 12, 2009 4:13PM (EDT)

After months of low-grade rhetorical combat with Fox News, the White House finally declared all-out war this weekend.

"It really is not a news network at this point," White House communications director Anita Dunn told CNN's "Reliable Sources" on Sunday.

The administration has been battling the conservative network since the campaign last year, but recently things have heated up. Aides refused to grant an interview with President Obama to Chris Wallace, the host of Fox News Sunday, last month -- even though Obama appeared on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN and Univision on the same day. Fox's broadcast arm no longer interrupts its primetime programming to air presidential news conferences, relegating them to the news channel only, and as a result, Obama hasn't called on the network's White House correspondent for a question lately. A few weeks ago, when Chicago was passed over for the 2016 Summer Olympics, the White House put out a detailed document listing all the ways Fox and its commentators had twisted the story around.

But still, Dunn's blunt language on Sunday took things to a new level. "They're widely viewed as, you know, part of the Republican Party," she said. "Take their talking points and put them on the air. Take their opposition research and put them on the air, and that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news network the way CNN is." Even the captions the network uses to headline its stories, Dunn said, are slanted.

There's certainly no question that Fox has gone out of its way to attack the White House on a daily basis. Republicans, in turn, frequently pick up the various crackpot theories the network peddles and run with them themselves. It may be that the Fox coverage of the administration simply can't get any worse -- or Fox could decide to get even more over the top in reaction.

Fox News senior vice president Michael Clemente responded with a statement that didn't really bother to answer the fundamental criticism the White House was making:

An increasing number of viewers are relying on FOX News for both news and opinion. And the average news consumer can certainly distinguish between the A-section of the newspaper and the editorial page, which is what our programming represents. So, with all due respect to anyone who might still be confused about the difference between news reporting and vibrant opinion, my suggestion would be to talk about the stories and the facts, rather than attack the messenger...which over time, has never worked.

Watch Dunn's interview with CNN here:

By Mike Madden

Mike Madden is Salon's Washington correspondent. A complete listing of his articles is here. Follow him on Twitter here.

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