On Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney welcomed correspondent Ed Henry to the Fox seat by calling his question a “Republican talking point,” and touching off a heated series of exchanges. At Wednesday’s briefing, Carney seemed to be spoiling for a continuation of the fight, referencing Henry in the answer to another reporter’s question. Henry obliged, asking Carney when the Obama debt ceiling plan would be submitted to the CBO. Carney went on to accuse Henry of “creating something for Fox.”
The substance of their exchange centered around whether President Obama has submitted his own plan to raise the debt ceiling. Yesterday, Carney explained that the details of the President’s proposals were not comparable to measures like the Boehner and Reid plans, but rather to concessions that both sides have discussed in the negotiations, and not made public. He explained that this was a strategic effort to prevent political pressure from scuttling a deal before it could even be agreed to.
Carney did a fine job answering the question, as far as that goes, and it was a perfectly legitimate question for Ed to ask. For those who have gotten the idea that Ed Henry has suddenly turned into a bulldog because he went to Fox, you haven’t been paying attention. Ed has always had a tough, persistent style that’s masked by his amiable persona. He does look relatively badass with the stubble, though.
What has changed, it seems, is Carney’s attitude toward him. At first, I didn’t think the “talking point” dig from yesterday was directed at Henry, but rather at the meme itself, but at today’s briefing, Carney put in a dig at Henry while answering another reporter’s question.
Ed, for his part, turned into the skid when Carney got to him, asking “Jay, since you just said there’s a lot of great detail the President has put out, as a plan, when are you going to submit the Obama plan to CBO for scoring?”
Carney, frustrated, said “Look, we can do this again…Has the Speaker of the House shown you the positions that he took in detail in the negotiations that were designed to achieve a compromise, as opposed to have a show vote…”
After some back-and-forth, Carney said, …”(Speaker Boehner) sat in a room with the President of the United States and worked out a detailed compromise. It’s the nature of these kinds of difficult things that you do that in a way so that you agree on the tough choices, you come out together, and you announce them, and you begin to make the hard argument from each person, to his party…that this is a good deal.”
Henry pressed him some more, and before moving on to his next question, Carney said “I know you’re creating…you’re creating a thing here for Fox.”
Ed pushed back. “That’s not what I’m doing. You know better than that.”
Carney interrupted Ed’s question. “Someone from Fox sat in a room with senior White House officials and got more detail on the President’s proposal…than you could name me now that was in any of the proposals put forward by House Republicans, and you know it.”
“You haven’t made that plan public.” Ed said. “You just haven’t.”
Substantively, the exchange provided Carney with an opportunity to respond (again) to a criticism of the President that he persuasively argued is unfair. But Carney’s digs at Ed Henry, which obviously took him aback, were surprising, especially given Jay’s status as a former journalist. I’ve read criticisms of Henry, since he joined Fox, that imply he is suddenly a frothing wingnut, but that’s just not the case. Because he’s with Fox, people look for bias where there is none, just as when Carney was named as Robert Gibbs’ successor, conservatives scoured his journalism record for clues of liberal bias.
I’ve said this before, and I will say it again now, still as a frequent critic of Fox News. The reporters who cover the White House for Fox News are uniformly professional, are among the finest reporters I know, and in our personal relationships, I have never ascertained a political bias of any kind in any of them. Ed Henry is no exception.
To be clear, though, I happen to agree with Carney that “Where’s the Obama plan?” is a Republican talking point, but that doesn’t mean that Ed, or anyone else, shouldn’t ask about it. I ask about Republican talking points all the time. If it’s a weak point, it ought to be easy to defeat. Where I disagree with Carney is that it had anything to do with why Ed asked the question.
Here’s the clip of Jay Carney referencing Ed Henry, followed by his exchange with Ed:
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