White House telling Dems to stay off Fox?

A report suggests the battle between the network and the administration has stepped up, but is it true?


Alex Koppelman
November 9, 2009 8:55PM (UTC)

We knew that relations between Fox News and the White House have been chilly, at best. But who knew the White House would go so far as to tell a Democratic operative to stay off the network?

That, at least, is the allegation made by one anonymous strategist, who spoke to the Los Angeles Times' Peter Nicholas. The timing of the report is strange, as David Axelrod, senior advisor to President Obama, was on the network just last week. As Nicholas points out, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made an appearance as well.

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The White House is denying the report. And though I don't like questioning another reporter's story based on supposition alone, it does seem like the White House's denial is on pretty solid ground here for one reason: Cable networks have a notoriously generous definition of "strategist." Many of those who appear with that title -- on any of the big three -- have little or no claim to it. Others may once have been legitimate strategists, but on Fox especially, the high-profile Democratic operatives have been out of the game for quite some time.

Take Pat Caddell, who worked as a pollster for President Carter and is now a fairly regular face on Fox. He's quoted in Nicholas' story as saying he hasn't heard anything about staying off the network -- "They know better than to tell me anything like that," he said -- but he did say that he's heard from other consultants who have heard that.

The quote itself is ironic; the idea that the White House would even call Caddell at this point is pretty far-fetched. He's well out of Democratic power circles at this point, and has become the quintessential "Fox News Democrat," attacking his own party's members at every turn while providing hosts like Sean Hannity the all-important appearance of balance. His presence in the story is another reason to wonder about how the definition of "strategist," and the question of how Fox picks its Democrats, influenced the report, and what that says about its veracity.


Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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