The December 5 edition of conservative pundit Laura Ingraham's newsletter attacked President Obama for recently meeting with MSNBC personalities, claiming that “if Fox News hosts and conservative personalities had stopped by the Bush White House to discuss policy” the press “would have been rightly outraged.” But President Bush did meet with a group of Fox News and conservative personalities at the White House -- including Laura Ingraham.
From LauraIngraham.com's December 5 newsletter: “Rachel Maddow, Al Sharpton, Lawrence O'Donnell, and Ed Schultz all stopped by the White House to discuss the President's fiscal cliff proposal. Can anyone even imagine how the press would have reacted if Fox News hosts and conservative personalities had stopped by the Bush White House to discuss policy? They would have been rightly outraged. Given MSNBC's history of blatantly promoting the DNC's talking points and spewing left-wing talking points, maybe its [sic] time they just become Obama's official mouthpiece.” Full email here.
The New York Times reported in October 2006 that Bush hosted a group of conservative personalities including Ingraham, Fox News host Sean Hannity (who also met with Bush at the White House the following year), and Fox News contributor Mike Gallagher. During the hour and a half meeting, which was part of a campaign “to reclaim and re-energize a crucial army of supporters that is not as likely to walk in lockstep with the White House as it has in the past,” Bush “discussed his case for the war in Iraq, his immigration proposals and even the personality of his Scottish terrier Barney, who scratched on the door during the session until the president relented and let him into the office, according to several hosts who attended.”
The Times article featured this White House photo of the meeting, showing Ingraham sitting next to Bush.
From the Times article:
“This was clearly, clearly an effort to kind of rally the troops when the troops need rallying,” said Mike Gallagher, who attended the meeting and whose daily program reaches at least 3.75 million people each week. “They know that we've got an audience of people who may or may not be on the political fence right now.”
Mr. Gallagher said that he and the other hosts -- Mr. Hannity, Ms. Ingraham, Neal Boortz and Michael Medved -- talked about the experience on their programs “for days and days and days.”
Mr. Hannity said of the meeting, “I think he'd have an 80 percent approval rating if he could bring people into the Oval Office six people at a time and explain it all to them.”
But Ms. Ingraham, who recently went bike riding with the president, has continued to complain about federal spending, progress in Iraq and, lately, the Republican leadership's handling of the Foley scandal. Ms. Ingraham likened herself to a sports fan who nonetheless has occasional criticism of the coach. But, she said pointedly on her show: “I am not an advocate for the G.O.P. I'm an advocate for conservative ideas.”
Ingraham's Daily Fix is a free email sent to LauraIngraham.com subscribers. It's sent under Ingraham's name, though it's not entirely clear who writes the content. A request for comment and clarification sent to Ingraham's website was not immediately returned.
During a discussion of the meeting on the December 5 edition of Fox & Friends, The Five co-host and former Bush press secretary Dana Perino said that “we would, sometimes, need to do some things like a talk radio row, I think we called it -- it was brilliant. We had all the conservative talk radio hosts lined up, and we would put -- get a whole bunch of interviews so that they could be convinced and persuaded to President Bush's point of view.” However, Perino went on to claim that Bush took more questions from the press corp and “the problem” for Obama is he's just meeting with “the left” and “a narrow slice of the audience.”
Following the publication of this post, a producer for Laura Ingraham defended the attack in an email to Media Matters. The producer wrote that the newsletter is written by staff while Ingraham is on radio hiatus and “Although I didn't know Laura had visited the Bush White House with other conservative radio hosts, the circumstances of her meeting the president were quite different”:
During Laura's brief radio hiatus, the Daily Fix is written by staff. Although I didn't know Laura had visited the Bush White House with other conservative radio hosts, the circumstances of her meeting the president were quite different. Laura did not go to the White House to advise the president, but was simply briefed on policy for perhaps an hour. More importantly, it wasn't in the middle of a critical period when the President should be meeting with members of Congress to discuss resolving something as important as the fiscal cliff. The gist of the Daily Fix was that President Obama was neglecting crucial negotiations to meet with liberal members of the media, and that point still stands.
While the staffer defended Ingraham by writing that she “was simply briefed on policy for perhaps an hour,” the newsletter originally asked: “Can anyone even imagine how the press would have reacted if Fox News hosts and conservative personalities had stopped by the Bush White House to discuss policy.” [emphasis added]
The New York Times noted that the 2006 meeting included discussions about the war in Iraq and Bush's immigration proposals (both of which were under heavy debate at the time). The meeting also took place near the 2006 midterm elections and was reportedly part of a Republican campaign to persuade and energize supporters.