Apr
03
2012

The White House and the Fear of Fox

Today the New York Times (4/3/12) has a long report detailing how the Obama White House has politicized the regulatory process, apparently partly out of a fear of being portrayed by Republicans as "an overzealous and job-killing regulator."

It's an interesting piece, covering an array of regulatory decisions. One of the more interesting media anecdotes was the suggestion that fear of Fox News motivates some of the White House's decision-making. A recommendation that calorie information for movie popcorn should be made public, for instance, was thought to be

unnecessary and would probably be lampooned on Fox News as an especially silly example of the government intrusions that conservatives often mocked as the nanny state.

The Times added:

"This was the era of Glenn Beck, and the White House was terrified that Beck would get up and say this is all part of the nanny state," a senior FDA official said.

This reminds me of the story of Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod, who was smeared as a racist in a deceptive video released by Andrew Breitbart. Without checking things out for themselves, government officials apparently quickly pushed for Sherrod's dismissal.

In that case as well there seemed to be some panic about the Fox News Channel's ability to drive the scandal. The Associated Press obtained internal emails about the Sherrod decision, including this one from Agriculture Department communications chief Chris Mather:

"She goes on to make it a larger case about understanding race…. but looks bad. [Fox News host Bill] O'Reilly just called us for statement,” Mather says in the e-mail.

And another, courtesy of GQ:

"Forgot to mention, Fox been sitting outside building all day," wrote Mather. "Followed [Vilsack's] car, tried to sneak in building with photo of Cook, asking for interview." And: "Ed Henry [then of CNN, now of Fox News] was literally hiding in bushes outside USDA and ran after [Vilsack] as he got out of car."

Serious question: Do any powerful Republicans fear the likes of, say, MSNBC?

About Peter Hart

Activism Director and and Co-producer of CounterSpinPeter Hart is the activism director at FAIR. He writes for FAIR's magazine Extra! and is also a co-host and producer of FAIR's syndicated radio show CounterSpin. He is the author of The Oh Really? Factor: Unspinning Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly (Seven Stories Press, 2003). Hart has been interviewed by a number of media outlets, including NBC Nightly News, Fox News Channel's O'Reilly Factor, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Associated Press. He has also appeared on Showtime and in the movie Outfoxed. Follow Peter on Twitter at @peterfhart.