Copies of Obama administration e-mails obtained by Judicial Watch have confirmed attempts by the White House to control the media in the United States by manipulating interviews with networks.
Despite public statements that Fox News, which often has reported criticisms of President Obama, was granted the same access as other networks, the e-mails Judicial Watch obtained “provide evidence that FNC was specifically singled out for exclusion.”
According to one Oct. 22, 2009, e-mail exchange between Dag Vega, director of broadcast media on the White House staff, to Jenni LeCompte, then-assistant secretary for public affairs in the Treasury Department, Vega informs LeCompte that “…we’d prefer if you skip Fox please.”
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that investigates and prosecutes government corruption, explained that the controversy arose when the administration was making “executive pay czar” Kenneth Feinberg available for interviews with selected administration favorites.
Obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request filed on Oct. 28, 2009, the e-mails reveal an entrenched anti-Fox bias, the organization said.
Press reports at the time revealed how Obama’s anti-Fox bias actually triggered a backlash from other members of the media, even though they were to be given the access that was to be denied Fox.
The New York Times reported at the time that Fox’s competitors “refused to go along with a Treasury Department effort on Thursday [Oct.22, 2009] to exclude Fox…”
The Washington bureau chiefs of the five television networks reportedly consulted and decided that if Fox was excluded, none would interview Feinberg. Ultimately, Fox reported, “the administration relented.”
Judicial Watch cited the Treasury Department’s “official response,” which was a “a clear denial” of any plot.
“There was no plot to exclude Fox News, and they had the same interview that their competitors did. Much ado about absolutely nothing,” said one government response.
Also, there was a statement from Jake Siewart, counselor to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, who said, “Call me today on your Fox-Treasury report. Not true that there was an ‘effort to exclude’ Fox,” Judicial Watch reported.
However, the e-mails, including Vega’s, tell another story.
The documents also revealed there was on Oct. 23, 2009, an e-mail exchange between Jennifer Psaki, deputy White House communications director and LeCompte.
Psaki wrote, “I am putting some dead fish in the fox cubby – just cause.” And, Judicial Watch said, in an e-mail on the night of Oct. 22, 2009, commenting on a report by Fox News Channel anchor Bret Baier noting the exclusion of the network from the pool, Psaki told Compte and other White House staff members: “…brett baier just did a stupid piece on it – but he is a lunatic.”
“We’ve demonstrated our willingness and ability to exclude Fox News from significant interviews…” boasted deputy White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest in an Oct. 23, 2009, e-mail to LeCompte.
“The Obama administration seems to have lied about its attempt to exclude Fox News Channel from access to an interview with the ‘pay czar.’ These documents show there is a pervasive anti-Fox bias in the Obama White House,” said Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton. “The juvenile Mafioso-talk in these e-mails has no place in any White House. For the Obama administration to purposely exclude a major news organization from access to information has troubling First Amendment implications.”
Feinberg served as “special master for TARP executive compensation” to establish executive compensation levels at companies bailed out by the federal government.
When Obama appointed Feinberg in August 2009, media reported the Washington lawyer would perform his duties “pro bono,” or without pay.
Judicial Watch said it repeatedly contacted Treasury Press Secretary Mark Paustenbach and Feinberg at both his D.C., law firm and at the Treasury. But neither provided an explanation for the discrepancy.
Paustenbach later contacted WND, however, quoting Feinberg’s statement that the salary was returned.
“I got a check every two weeks that I endorsed and turned back to U.S. Treasury every two weeks,” Feinberg claimed. “And I have to pay taxes on the money I didn’t keep – so it actually cost me money to be the special master.”
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