Woodward Backpedals On White House Intimidation Claims

Washington Post editor Bob Woodward appeared on Fox News' Hannity Thursday and attempted to distance himself from his suggestion that a White House adviser used threatening language in an email to him.

On the February 28 broadcast, Woodward discussed his comments to Politico regarding a series of heated exchanges he had with a White House official, who was later identified as economic adviser Gene Sperling. Woodward said that others had described him as labeling an email from Sperling as “a threat” and claimed, “I haven't used that language.”

In an interview with his own newspaper published the same day, Woodward said of Sperling's language, “I never characterized it as a 'threat.' ... I think that was Politico's word. I said I think [Sperling's] language is unfortunate, and I don't think it's the way to operate.”

Yet Woodward's initial comments in the February 27 Politico article made it clear he found Sperling's use of the word “regret” intimidating.

From Politico:

“I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today,” the official typed [in a page-long email]. “You're focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. ... I think you will regret staking out that claim.”

Woodward repeated the last sentence, making clear he saw it as a veiled threat. " 'You'll regret.' Come on," he said. “I think if Obama himself saw the way they're dealing with some of this, he would say, 'Whoa, we don't tell any reporter 'you're going to regret challenging us.'”

Woodward also told CNN's Wolf Blitzer on the same day, “It was said very clearly [in an email], 'You will regret doing this.' ... It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, 'You're going to regret doing something that you believe in.' ”

In fact, later during his Hannity interview, Woodward appeared to reiterate his initial concerns, saying that Gene Sperling's use of the word “regret” was code for “you'd better watch out.”

Many journalists and pundits from across the political spectrum have refuted Woodward's initial characterization of the exchange with Sperling following the release of the full emails, in which Sperling calls Woodward “a friend” and Woodward responds, “I also welcome your personal advice. I am listening.”