Despite spat, White House to book officials on Fox News

By Krissah Thompson
Monday, October 19, 2009

After impugning the objectivity of Fox News and saying that they would begin to treat the network as "an opponent," White House officials said Sunday that they will allow administration officials to appear on the network.

Last week, White House communications director Anita Dunn said Fox News, which airs the shows of several conservative commentators, functions "almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. . . . We don't need to pretend that this is the way that legitimate news organizations behave."

Her comments sparked a fresh battle between the White House and the network. In response to the criticism, Fox News executive Michael Clemente said in a statement that President Obama's aides had decided to "declare war on a news organization."

The back-and-forth played out on political talk shows Sunday, with others in the president's inner circle criticizing Fox, which is home to several staunch Obama critics -- including Bill O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Glenn Beck, who has called the president a racist. Beck also has pushed against administration hires. Most notably, the commentator used his show to campaign for the ouster of Van Jones, a White House environmental adviser who had been criticized for past statements and associations. Jones was then forced to resign.

Without citing specific complaints against Fox, White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the way "the president looks at it and we look at it is it is not a news organization so much as it has a perspective."

Karl Rove, a Fox News contributor who advised President George W. Bush, said Obama's aides have tried to "demonize" Fox and compared their approach to that of President Richard M. Nixon.

"This is a White House engaging in its own version of the media enemies list," Rove said on "Fox News Sunday." "It's unhelpful for the country and undignified for the president of the United States."

Obama eschewed "Fox News Sunday" when he appeared on five Sunday-morning news shows last month. Again this week, he sent aides to discuss the war in Afghanistan, the economy and the overhaul of the nation's health-care system on ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC. Fox was left out.

Still, senior Obama adviser David Axelrod said on ABC's "This Week" that administration officials are willing to appear on the network in the future.

Fox's Clemente said, "The door remains open, and we welcome a discussion about the facts behind the issues."

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