“We Got Played”: Conservatives Abandon Dubious Woodward Intimidation Story

Conservative media figures are abandoning Washington Post writer Bob Woodward's over-hyped claim that he was threatened by a White House official.

In a CNN appearance and an interview with Politico, Woodward claimed that a White House representative (later revealed to be economic adviser Gene Sperling) had threatened him over his reporting on the history of the sequester cuts. Woodward's assertion that the White House was trying to intimidate him was quickly promoted by major conservative media figures.

But the full email exchange between Woodward and Sperling, released this morning by Politico, strongly suggests that Woodward's claims of White House intimidation were overblown. As a result, as Brett LoGiurato explains at Business Insider, several conservatives are now turning on Woodward.

The Daily Caller, which hyped Woodward's initial claims last night, posted an article by Matt Lewis this morning explaining that conservatives had seized on Woodward's initial story because it “confirmed our suspicion about the Obama Administration's 'Chicago-style' of politics.” After reading the full emails, Lewis concluded that conservatives had been “played,” and that the exchange is “much more innocuous” than it was initially presented.

Echoing Lewis, Daily Caller co-founder Tucker Carlson said during an appearance on Fox News that the full emails suggest Woodward “hyped” the claim that he had been threatened.

Fox News contributor Erick Erickson tweeted this morning:

Washington Post blogger Jennifer Rubin, after posting an overwrought item this morning arguing that the Woodward story was evidence of the “monstrously stupid” White House trying to intimidate its critics, added an update explaining that “the full e-mails reveal less bullying and far more pomposity, suggesting the White House would have its critic's best interest at heart.”

In a post at National Review, Kevin Hassett argues that while Sperling's statement to Woodward was “certainly regrettable,” it was “not some ham-fisted attempt to intimidate Woodward.”

At Herman Cain's website, Robert Laurie wrote, “I'm not seeing any threat. It's a real stretch to claim this back and forth is, in any way, menacing.” 

Of course, there are still a few dead-enders.

Following the release of the full exchange, Breitbart.com's John Nolte wrote a post titled “Woodward Emails Back Claim Of White House Intimidation,” arguing that Sperling's words were still a threat, because "[p]sychological manipulation is a game of chess, not checkers, and those claiming Woodward is exaggerating need to take into account more than just these two moves."

Matt Drudge is still flogging the story with numerous headlines on his site, including a banner story touting former Clinton official and current Fox News contributor Lanny Davis' claim that the White House has also tried to intimidate him in the past.