Unforced Error: Obama's O'Reilly Interview

Blog ››› ››› MATT GERTZ

For two years, the White House has engaged in an off-and-on campaign to delegitimize Fox News, with top aides and even the president himself criticizing the network's partisanship and its corrosive effect on the body politic. This was a wise strategy: Following President Obama's election, the network declared itself the "voice of the opposition" and engaged in an unprecedented campaign to deliver the 2010 elections for the Republican Party.

But on Sunday, all the administration's effort was wiped away as President Obama sat for an interview with Bill O'Reilly.

The administration was in a tough spot; Obama set a precedent by sitting for interviews with CBS and NBC anchors before prior Super Bowls aired on those networks. A pre-Super Bowl interview gives the president access to a large audience that may not typically be politically engaged. And it's possible that the White House believed that they would get more credit with that audience by having Obama interviewed by O'Reilly instead of, say, Bret Baier.

But here's what has happened since that interview:

  • O'Reilly is crowing about how his interview "showed to the world" that Fox News is "not in business to demean the President" or "harm the administration," contrary to the "lies" of the "liberal media."
  • Other Fox figures are likewise claiming that the interview shows that Fox is a "real news outfit."
  • Fox is lying about what Obama said during the interview and offering other absurd complaints in order to attack the president.
  • Fox has pushed the ridiculous falsehood that Obama "betray[ed]" the British by agreeing to reveal data to Russia about our sales of nuclear material to the U.K., a claim rejected by both governments.
  • A Fox Business host casually race-baited the president, claiming that Obama is deliberately insulting the U.K. because of his family's supposed decades-old resentment of that nation's colonial rule of Kenya.
  • A Fox News host has claimed that labor unions are "led by communists" and that they are working to "help stomp out the free market and capitalism," which is "why they're rushing in to support the democratic revolution in Egypt."

In response to the interview, Fox has 1) claimed a new mantle of legitimacy and 2) aired a new series of absurd and offensive attacks on President Obama and progressives. Even worse, now any time in the future that the White House criticizes Fox for unfair coverage, the network will point back at this interview to defend itself.

This is not how you deal with an organization that is "ultimately destructive" to America.

Posted In
Government, The Presidency & White House
Fox News Channel
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