With the glib-talking Tony Snow on board, the White House has stepped up its war against the press.
Reports Paul McLeary in Columbia Journalism Review Daily:
In the latest battle between 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the media, the White House has taken to sending out flurries of press releases attempting to explain where and how individual reporters got it wrong.
We counted five in just the past three days. Let’s take a look at just two of those.
On Wednesday, the White House slammed CBS News for getting its Medicare reporting wrong, to which CBS News’ Chief White House Correspondent Jim Axelrod responded in kind, rebutting the complaints point by point, and adding that the White House is “clearly manipulating what I broadcast to fit their agenda.”
On Thursday, the White House trained its guns on the Associated Press, complaining about a story headlined, “Army Guard, Reserve Fall Short Of April Recruiting Goals,” that ran on Wednesday.
The AP story contends that both the Army National Guard and Reserve “have posted their worst monthly recruitment efforts since last summer, falling well short of their goals for April. The Guard recruited 90 percent of its goal … while the Army Reserves recruited just 83 percent of its goal. Those are the lowest percentages since last August and July, respectively.”
The White House guns, under the command of new press secretary Tony Snow, wasted little time in shooting back that “The Army National Guard, Air Force Reserve, And Marine Corps Reserve All Have Exceeded Or Achieved Their Year-To-Date Recruitment Goals.”
That’s great, but there’s a little problem: The AP never said anything about yearly recruitment goals, only the missed goals for the month of April. Nowhere in the rebuttal does the White House mention the April numbers, but instead, the release switches the issue to year-to-date goals and numbers. So the White House is, essentially, complaining about a story that was never written, while making it look like the AP got something wrong. Also note that the White House press release says nothing about the Army Reserve, and throws in recruitment statistics from other branches of the service that were not treated in the original AP article.
Seems to us the White House should spend more time correcting its own lies and distortions than trying to further muddle the water by adding more misstatement and inaccuracy in a war it can’t win with the press.
Somebody at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue should remind Tony Snow of President Harry Truman’s advice to his press secretary: “Never get into a public battle with someone who buys newsprint by the ton.”
Or broadcast power by the megawatt…or bandwidth by the terrabyte.
As McLeary concludes:
This rapid response and counterattack is more reminiscent of the Republican National Committee’s performance during the 2004 presidential campaign than it is of the bumbling White House press office during the reign of the hapless Scott McClellan. And it’s already clear that Snow is both more nimble and more adept than the shambling McClellan.
But he has yet to show that he’s any more correct.