President Donald Trump escalated his war with the press Friday after unilaterally banning CNN, Politico, The LA Times, BuzzFeed and The New York Times from a White House press gaggle. The move drew universal condemnation from the media and also led to a boycott from Time and the Associated Press.
Among the president’s defenders on the right, the decision was also met with unease. In a widely shared — and slightly passive-aggressive — Twitter post, Fox News’ Bret Baier spoke out against the ban saying the gaggle should be “open to all credentialed orgs.” Baier also invoked his network’s own previous dustup with President Barack Obama and cited “some” media solidarity at the time with CNN and The New York Times.
Some at CNN & NYT stood w/FOX News when the Obama admin attacked us & tried 2 exclude us-a WH gaggle should be open to all credentialed orgs https://t.co/8Vjcs0KCPR
— Bret Baier (@BretBaier) February 24, 2017
The tweet was only the most prominent salvo in a broad narrative now being mainstreamed by Fox and other conservative media totems that President Obama engaged in comparable behavior toward the news network during his tenure as president. On his show, Neil Cavuto and Media Research Center’s Rich Noyes chortled as much, with Cavuto invoking how past presidents struggled with the press and that even Abraham Lincoln, “famously went after newspapers and ostracized some of them”
Right. Trump press ban is just like… Abraham Lincoln.
If the straw grasping toward America’s greatest president wasn’t enough of a red flag, a basic accounting of the facts should make it readily apparent that, while Obama did have his troubles with the media, there is no valid comparison between his actions and what President Trump is now doing.
It hardly bears repeating that Fox News took a tough line on the 44th president from the start, striking a tone in many ways as adversarial as much of the mainstream media has taken toward Trump. The network regularly served as a voice for Obama critics and welcoming home to crackpot conspiracies — including spurious claims from Donald Trump that the President may have been born in Kenya.
It was in this climate that President Obama went to war. White House communications director Anita Dunn said in 2009 that Fox was “widely viewed as a part of the Republican party.” Later on in his administration, there were rumors — originating from Fox — of a plot to exclude the network from participating in a round of interviews with executive pay czar, Kenneth Feinberg. This ultimately led to a mini-revolt among the rest of the White House press corps. Fox ultimately was allowed to participate and Treasury sources later told Mediaite that no such plot ever existed. Mediate concluded at the time that Fox’s original reporting of the incident was “at best, incomplete and self-serving.”
There is simply no universe where the preceding kerfuffle compares to the outright banning of numerous pillars of American journalism from a White House gaggle — a move that is not only unethical, but possibly unconstitutional. It is also worth noting that at no time did President Obama ever seek to ban Fox from similar gaggles.
For it’s part, the White House rejected the premise that media had been blocked, with press secretary Sean Spicer telling Fox’s Judge Jeanine Pirro that invited media was rotational. These assurances, however, can only be taken with a grain of salt as President Trump has repeatedly attacked many of the barred outlets as “fake news” and, more recently, as an “enemy of the people.” For good measure, CNN reported at the time that conservative outlets, including Breitbart, The Washington Times, and One America News Network, were allowed to attend.
White House Deputy Comms. Dir. Raj Shah denies reports of a gaggle block against CNN, NYT, Politico and others: pic.twitter.com/XzgfQJ25w3
— ErikWemple (@ErikWemple) February 24, 2017
But don’t worry, it’s all just like Abraham Lincoln… according to Neil Cavuto.
This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.