House Democratic Leader Jim Wright says he fears that Washington reporters have become "enemies of government" by overemphasizing their traditional adversary role.
The Texas representative's unusually blunt remarks, made in defense of Congress' record on energy legislation, echo heightened criticism of the press by President Carter and some of his aides.
"I think maybe the idea of an adversary relationship has been unduly magnified," the majority leader told a group of reporters in his Capitol office Tuesday. "I think we all ought to be on the same team, the same side. And that's the side of the country."
Wright decried the "habit grown up in the Washington press corps - fanned by the obvious success of people like Woodward and Bernstein, who did find [the Watergate] scandal to expose - that to be true professionals they must be, in effect, enemies of government."
"I don't expect continuing paeans of praise," he said. "But I hate it when it seems to be a continuous gabble of gripes, an uninterrupted dirge of despondency."
Wright said he agrees with those who say the press is partially responsible for the national malaise Carter described in his post-Camp David address. "I wish it would try to be part of the solution," said Wright. "I wish it could be."
He indicated that reporters were responsible for creating a false image of congressional inaction on Carter's energy proposals. He said the House is "a lot further along than might superficially appear," having passed the windfall profits tax, a synthetic fuels bill and a standby gasoline rationing plan.
Asked if Carter himself had not led the criticism of Congress' pace on the energy program, Wright replied, "Perhaps he has unwittingly, I hope not intentionally."
The majority leader said the notion "that Congress is not doing what it should and the president is not doing what he should" has become "endemic in our society."