As the U.K. phone-hacking scandal continues to engulf News Corp's British segment, one of the company's top-performing assets in the U.S. is enjoying a bit of unrelated vindication.
Rewind to October 2009: Fox News Channel and the White House were at war. In one particularly heated incident, Fox claimed the Obama administration had tried to oust the "fair & balanced" network from an interview with Treasury official Kenneth Feinberg, when the other four news nets in the TV coverage pool had been offered access. In the end, Fox was included, and a Treasury Department spokesman snarled: "There was no plot to exclude Fox News, and they had the same interview that their competitors did. Much ado about absolutely nothing."
Emails that surfaced last week, however, through a public records request by the conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch, suggest otherwise.
"We'd prefer if you skip Fox please," a White House broadcast media staffer advised a Treasury Department public affairs secretary ahead of the interview. In other emails during the same time frame, deputy White House communications director Jennifer Psaki called Fox News anchor Bret Baier "a lunatic" and boasted that "I am putting some dead fish in the fox cubby--just cause." In yet another email, another White House press officer wrote: "We've demonstrated our willingness and ability to exclude Fox News from significant interviews …"
Proof of an anti-Fox agenda in the Oval Office? Judicial Watch thinks so.
"These documents show there is a pervasive anti-Fox bias in the Obama White House," said Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton in a statement. "The juvenile Mafioso-talk in these emails 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."
But current White House press secretary Jay Carney pushed back on the revelation during a briefing Thursday.
"It is well known that at the time there was a dispute between Fox News and its coverage and the White House and its feelings about the coverage," he said, according to CBS News. "I mean, that was then, and we obviously deal with Fox News regularly. ... We regularly engage with every network and every news organization here, including Fox, and give interviews to Fox, and respect the reporters at Fox who are reporters and do their job."