Under fire for its management of a wave of problems, the Obama administration has reached into its bag of tricks and pulled out a new bogeyman: Fox News.
Given the seriousness of the challenges our nation faces, the administration’s ploy to delegitimize Fox is nothing more than a distraction. On Sunday, the White House communications director charged that Fox is not a real “news network.” Why? Because the White House says so.
The administration repeatedly accuses Fox of lies and has urged the rest of the media not to treat it like a news organization. The White House is so angry that it has tried to “punish” the network by not doing any interviews on Fox at least until 2010.
This episode is about much more than just Fox News. Today, the administration’s target is Fox; tomorrow, it could be someone else. The administration apparently feels entitled to receive friendly (or what it subjectively deems “balanced”) news coverage at a time when it is making monumental decisions that will have sweeping consequences for years to come. Its heavy-handed treatment of Fox is unseemly in a democracy that depends on the free flow of information. Even commentators and journalists from other rival networks have expressed alarm.
Friction between the media and the elected officials they cover is inevitable. I know this from experience. But lawmakers and the executive branch should be able to agree that going after individual news organizations for no other reason than to sully their reputations (oddly enough, the administration’s clash with Fox will only increase the latter’s profile) is not good for our nation. President Obama should know better. He is above this.
As the White House bickers with a cable-news network, the challenges facing America grow more formidable by the day. Since January, millions of Americans have lost their jobs. Our military commanders say we risk losing the war in Afghanistan unless we boost troop levels; and our military men and women risk their lives each day waiting for a decision from their commander in chief. And a flood of new government spending threatens to blow a hole in the national debt, devalue the dollar, and place an insurmountable burden upon our children and grandchildren.
Freedom of the press is a celebrated right that has shaped our society for more than 200 years. Accordingly, tough scrutiny by the media is something all administrations should expect and accept. Our nation faces many difficult challenges, and the White House should be focused on the truly pressing issues that require our prompt attention.
– Rep. Eric Cantor (R., Va.) is the Republican whip in the House of Representatives.