Rove memory loss: Op-ed accuses Obama of “unusual” use of Friday news dumps

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, former Bush official Karl Rove criticized the “degree” to which the Obama administration has released “news on contentious issues late on Friday,” adding that “such tactics ... can look disingenuous if they undercut public debate on substantive policy changes” ; later on Fox & Friends, co-host Brian Kilmeade cited Rove's column and asserted that the administration's use of this tactic means it did not have to “confront the questioners.” In fact, the Bush administration made numerous substantial and often controversial announcements on Fridays, including news about the Abu Ghraib scandal and a report related to the Pentagon's military analyst program.

Rove, Kilmeade criticize Obama administration for releasing news on Friday

Rove: “What is unusual is the degree to which this White House has relied on this tactic.” In a November 19 op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, Rove wrote: “Every modern White House has put out news on contentious issues late on Friday in the hope that doing so will bury it, or reduce the amount of critical scrutiny it would otherwise receive. What is unusual is the degree to which this White House has relied on this tactic.”

From Rove's November 19 op-ed:

Every modern White House has put out news on contentious issues late on Friday in the hope that doing so will bury it, or reduce the amount of critical scrutiny it would otherwise receive. What is unusual is the degree to which this White House has relied on this tactic.

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Do Friday news dumps work? Yes, but marginally. The White House press corps is generally exhausted at the end of a long week. Congressional critics are either in route back home to their districts or already there. Friday night network television news and Saturday newspapers and cable coverage are traditionally less seen or read. By Sunday morning, a Friday announcement is often considered old news. Monday is the first opportunity White House correspondents get to ask the president's press secretary on camera about whatever was released Friday. By then there is almost always other news occupying the headlines.

Such tactics, however, can look disingenuous if they undercut public debate on substantive policy changes -- such as deciding to bring terrorists to New York for trial.

Kilmeade: Friday news means “you don't have to confront the questioners -- not Robert Gibbs, not the president.” While interviewing Michelle Malkin on the November 19 edition of Fox News' Fox & Friends, Kilmeade cited Rove's op-ed and said: “He says they do so many big stories, and so many controversial -- make so many controversial decisions over the last year on Fridays, a traditional day where you dump news, Friday to Saturday. And by the time Monday rolls around, it's not a big story and you don't have to confront the questioners -- not Robert Gibbs, not the president.” Malkin replied that it's “business as usual” because "[t]hey've done huge document dumps on Friday nights and over the weekends."

But the Bush administration routinely released controversial news on Fridays

Steve Benen: Friday news releases were Rove's “signature move.” On his Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal, Steve Benen wrote: “I nearly fell out of my chair reading [Rove's op-ed]. It was, after all, Karl Rove's signature move -- release bad news late on Friday afternoons, in the hopes it would generate less attention. Rove is going after the president's team for occasionally using the same media trick Rove personally perfected while helping run the White House.”

Indeed, the following are examples of substantial and often controversial “Friday news dumps” from the Bush administration:

DOD inspector general report on military analyst program released on Friday. According to a Washington Post article, the Department of Defense inspector general released a report Friday, January 16, 2009, that concluded an investigation into whether the Pentagon's connections with numerous media military analysts were inappropriate.

Information related to Abu Ghraib released on Fridays, Saturday. According to reports, many of the decisions related to the Abu Ghraib torture scandal were made public on Fridays and a Saturday. The United States Central Command reportedly announced its investigation of the abuses on Friday, January 16, 2004; an Army spokesman announced that six soldiers had been charged with the abuses on Saturday, March 20, 2004; and the military released more than 600 Abu Ghraib detainees on Friday, May 28, 2004.

From a March 21, 2004, Washington Post article (accessed via Nexis):

Six U.S. soldiers were criminally charged Saturday in the abuse and mistreatment of about 20 Iraqis at a military jail west of Baghdad. The charges, which include assault and sexual abuse, are among the most serious involving military detainees since the start of the war in Iraq one year ago.

[...]

The criminal charges announced Saturday resulted from an investigation into abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison ordered by Sanchez on Jan. 14.

Bush appointed controversial judicial nominee Pryor on a Friday, during recess. Despite a Senate filibuster, Bush reportedly appointed William H. Pryor to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday, February 20, 2004, while Congress was in recess.

Bush released his Air National Guard records on a Friday. According to a Friday, February 13, 2004, Associated Press article, “President Bush, trying to calm a political storm, released his Vietnam-era military records Friday to counter Democrats' suggestions that he shirked his duty in the Texas Air National Guard. But there was no new evidence that he was in Alabama during a period when Democrats have questioned whether he showed up for service.”

Department of Justice approved a Texas redistricting plan on a Friday. The Bush Justice Department announced on Friday, December 19, 2003, that it approved a controversial GOP plan to redistrict Texas, which would have reportedly given the Republican Party several seats in the House of Representatives.

From the AP article (accessed via Nexis):

The U.S. Department of Justice approved a Republican-backed congressional redistricting map Friday, disappointing Democrats who staged two legislative boycotts over redistricting and have sued over the new plan.

A federal court panel considering legal challenges to the new map also gave Republicans a victory Friday, ruling that that mid-decade redistricting is permissible under state law.

The Justice Department evaluated the map to see if it adhered to the federal Voting Rights Act, a law that protects minority voting rights.

[...]

Republicans hold every statewide-elected post and rule both the state Senate and House, but have 15 U.S. representatives to Democrats' 17. The new map is expected to give the GOP several more seats.

Several Bush administration advisers resigned on Fridays. Former Cheney adviser I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby resigned on Friday, October 28, 2005, after he was indicted that day for lying during an investigation into a CIA operative leak; Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Bush economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey resigned on Friday, December 6, 2002, after the administration reportedly asked them to step down; Army Secretary Thomas E. White resigned on Friday, April 25, 2003, reportedly following a controversy over his investments in Enron; and Bush's pick to head the Department of Homeland Security, Bernard Kerik, withdrew his nomination on Friday, December 10, 2004, after he reportedly failed to pay taxes on a nanny/housekeeper he employed.

The Commerce Department released news that 1.7 million people had fallen into poverty on a Friday. According to a Friday, September 26, 2003, CBS News/AP article, “Poverty rose and income levels declined in 2002 for the second straight year as the nation's economy continued struggling after the first recession in a decade, the Census Bureau reported Friday.” The article continued: “Even before the data was made public, House Democrats charged the Bush administration was trying to hide bad economic news by releasing the numbers on a Friday when people are paying more attention to the upcoming weekend. In previous years, the estimates were released either on a Tuesday or Thursday.”

EPA announced its decision not to regulate toxins in land-sewage sludge on a Friday. According to a Friday, October 17, 2003, Environmental Protection Agency press release, “Today, EPA has made a final decision not to regulate dioxins in land-applied sewage sludge. After five years of study, including outside peer review, the Agency has determined that dioxins from this source do not pose a significant risk to human health or the environment. ... Dioxins are a group of highly toxic persistent compounds which are a byproduct of certain combustion and chemical manufacturing processes. Sewage sludge is the byproduct of the treatment processes which purifies wastewater before it is released into local waterways.”