Fox News' Chris Wallace plays dumb about Obama press conference

Blog ››› ››› ERIC BOEHLERT

We flagged this yesterday at CF. But let's take a closer look at Wallace's radio comments about Fox opting out of covering Obama's primetime presser this week [emphasis added]:

Listen, I happen to think - and I wouldn't always say this - I think Rupert Murdoch and the Fox broadcast people were right - there was no news in this news conference. It was simply a commemoration of a day. If he wants to go on cable, but there was no reason for a prime time news conference.

A couple things. First, busy sucking up to his News Corps bosses, Wallace thinks Murdoch and his minions were right on the money to skip the press conference because the entertainment program Fox aired Wednesday night landed better ratings. Murdoch's a TV genius!

Except that I'm pretty sure everyone in the network TV business understood that if they bypassed the press conference and stuck with regularly scheduled program, they all would have beat the White House ratings. But the other nets didn't air the presser to land good ratings. (Duh.) They did it to fulfill their public interest obligation. Something Murdoch was quite comfortable walking away from.

Second, Wallace claims there was no news at the press conference; that it was just a "commemoration" of Obama's first 100 days. Therefore, Fox was correct to stay away. This is almost too dumb for words.

A) The idea that regularly scheduled, primetime WH press conferences are supposed to make news--that TV nets should only cover them if some news bombs gets dropped--is patently absurd. Periodic WH pressers have rarely been about breaking news. They've been about updating the American people on current events and giving journalists a chance to directly ask the POTUS questions. Period. Of course there have been exceptions; times when press conferences were scheduled specifically to respond to a crisis. But in general, and for decades, that simply has not been how they were treated, either by the White House or the press.

But for Obama, Wallace formulates a completely news standard: the president must guarantee in advance that news will be made before the nets agree to carry the presser live.

B) The idea that the event was simply a "commemoration" is a flat out lie. Wallace is (supposedly) in the news business, right? Was he really unaware that the night of the WH presser the country, thanks in large part to media outlets like Fox News, had been whipped into a national frenzy about the looming threat of a swine flu pandemic? Meaning, there was a potential health crisis story breaking the very day Obama took questions from the press. And of course, the very first question he got asked was about the swine flu, which gave Obama his first chance to address the nation in primetime about the frightening story.

But according to Wallace, the press conference was a news-free zone. That all it was a beauty pageant to commemorate Obama's 100 days.

Like we said, Wallace was playing dumb. Big time.

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