Bob Woodward: White House said I would ‘regret’ it if I pursued the story

February 28, 2013

Longtime Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward is taking on the White House, saying in multiple interviews that the administration essentially threatened him to try to get him not to write a story.

Politico has an interview with Woodward and his correspondence with top Obama economic adviser Gene Sperling, in which Sperling apologizes for raising his voice at Woodward in a phone call but then proceeds to say Woodward would "regret" it if he pursued his story -- about whether Obama had moved the goalposts on the sequester.

"But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post," Sperling said in the e-mail obtained by Politico. "I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim."

Woodward, who didn't name Sperling in his interviews, which occurred before the actual e-mails came out, said that last sentence amounted to a thinly 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.’”

In an interview with CNN, Woodward said:

"I mean, it makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, 'you're going to regret doing something that you believe in.'" Woodward said. "And even though we don't look at it that way, you do look at it that way. And I think if Barack Obama knew that was part of the communication's strategy -- let's hope it's not a strategy, but it's a tactic that somebody's employed, and said, look, we don't go around trying to say to reporters, if you, in an honest way, present something we don't like, that, you know, you're going to regret this. And just -- it's Mickey Mouse."

Here's the piece in question, which Woodward wrote last weekend.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix, the Post’s top political blog.
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Aaron Blake | February 28, 2013