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2009: White House -- 'We control news media'

Posted By Aaron Klein On 02/22/2013 @ 8:50 pm In Front Page,Politics,U.S. | No Comments

A Politico column criticizing the Obama administration’s media tactics is drawing attention, but four years ago, the White House communications director disclosed that Obama’s presidential campaign focused on “making” media cover certain issues while rarely communicating anything to the press unless it was “controlled.”

WND exposed the video of Anita Dunn speaking to the Dominican government at a videotaped conference.

Her comments were given further national attention after the popular Drudge Report posted the WND story.

Dunn stepped down two weeks after the story was released, although she said she was staying on in an advisory position.

“Very rarely did we communicate through the press anything that we didn’t absolutely control,” Dunn told the Dominican officials.

“One of the reasons we did so many of the David Plouffe videos was not just for our supporters, but also because it was a way for us to get our message out without having to actually talk to reporters,” said Dunn, referring Obama’s chief campaign manager.

“We just put that out there and made them write what Plouffe had said as opposed to Plouffe doing an interview with a reporter. So it was very much we controlled it as opposed to the press controlled it,” Dunn said.

Dunn said that whether it was a Plouffe video or an Obama speech, “a huge part of our press strategy was focused on making the media cover what Obama was actually saying as opposed to why the campaign was saying it, what the tactic was.”

The White House, she said, was “making the press cover what we were saying.”

Dunn was speaking at a Jan. 12, 2009, event hosted by the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development, which seeks to promote collaboration between the U.S. and the Dominican Republic. The event was held in Santo Domingo and was attended by the country’s president.

Tipping the balance of power

A Politico column this week by Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen described how with more technology, and fewer resources than many media companies, “the balance of power between the White House and press has tipped unmistakably toward the government.”

“This is an arguably dangerous development, and one that the Obama White House – fluent in digital media and no fan of the mainstream press – has exploited cleverly and ruthlessly.”

The column said the White House has been bypassing the media, even shutting down interviews with “many of the White House reporters who know the most and ask the toughest questions.”

In one of many examples cited, Allen and Vandehei recall that when Obama nominated Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court, Kagan gave one interview – to White House TV, produced by Obama aides.

“The balance of power used to be much more in favor of the mainstream press,” said Mike McCurry, who was Bill Clinton’s press secretary during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Nowadays, he said, the White House “gets away with stuff I would never have dreamed of doing.”

“When I talk to White House reporters now, they say it’s really tough to do business with people who don’t see the need to be cooperative,” McCurry said.

See video of Dunn’s remarks:

ABC News White House reporter Ann Compton told Politico the way the president’s “availability to the press has shrunk in the last two years is a disgrace.”

“The president’s day-to-day policy development – on immigration, on guns – is almost totally opaque to the reporters trying to do a responsible job of covering it,” she said. “There are no readouts from big meetings he has with people from the outside, and many of them aren’t even on his schedule. This is different from every president I covered. This White House goes to extreme lengths to keep the press away.”


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