America’s Morning News, a radio program affiliated with the Washington Times, ambushed former Obama White House official Anita Dunn on Sunday on her way to a CNN appearance. Good video resulted. One of the questions lobbed at Dunn was this:
Did you urge the president to call Laura Ingraham after MSNBC’s Ed Schultz called her a right-wing slut?
Dunn refused to engage on the merits. “You may call my office for an interview, which is what legitimate news organizations do,” she said to the interviewer. “This is not actually the way things get done with legitimate news organizations, as opposed to partisan political operations.” She repeated several times the invitation to call her office.
America’s Morning News’s in-your-face approach to extracting answers from Dunn moved me. Last fall, I tried and failed several times to get Dunn to comment for a story on the backlash against Ron Suskind’s much-discussed book, “Confidence Men,” which she had publicly trashed. I wish I’d caught Dunn on her way to a TV appearance.
The guerrilla video of Dunn comes in response to her role in a far more recent news cycle. Fox News’s O’Reilly Factor earlier this month noted that Dunn’s firm, SKDKnickerbocker, was repping famous Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke. Host Bill O’Reilly had a ball playing with the possible connections between former White House aide Dunn and a woman who has caused political troubles for opponents of the administration.
Given those circumstances, the questions that America’s Morning News was posing to Dunn seemed reasonable, at least the first two:
*“What role did the White House play in having Sandra Fluke appear before Congress?”
*”How offended are you as a woman that Bill Maher referred to Sarah Palin as the ‘C’ word?”
So I decided to take up Dunn on her offer to America’s Morning News. I posed those two questions to her office. Voila — answers came back.
Dunn on White House role in Fluke appearance:
You should put this question directly to the White House, but I wasn’t involved in Sandra’s testimony or any arrangements around it. However, we understand it was arranged by the organization “Law Students for Reproductive Justice.” My firm’s involvement with Sandra, through a friend of a friend, came about days after Rush Limbaugh attacked her on the air and the crush of media requests became more than she and a helpful friend could handle. Here is the statement my firm issued after Bill O’Reilly uncovered the “conspiracy” but as usual with Fox they don’t let facts get in the way of a good conspiracy theory.
[Firm’s statement:] “We are proud to provide pro-bono support to Sandra Fluke, an incredibly courageous young woman who is standing up for the rights of women everywhere in the face of sustained, personal attacks. This week, we began helping Sandra, a full-time law student, manage the enormous volume of incoming media requests that came to a head when she was publicly disparaged for advocating for contraception coverage. We were first connected to Sandra through one of her personal friends who came to us seeking our assistance. I am proud of our staff for donating their time and energy to work with Sandra during this important and difficult time.” – Hilary Rosen, Managing Partner, SKDKnickerbocker
Had O’Reilly checked with my firm they would have found out that we started working with Sandra, pro bono, post-Rush attack and that I am not the person who is working with her, although I would be happy and honored to do so!
Dunn on the Maher-“C” word question:
I don’t watch Bill Maher so was unaware of the offensive language he has used until the right wing started looking for moral equivalency between Limbaugh’s personal attack on Sandra and Maher’s language. Yes, I find it offensive, whether it is in “news” or entertainment. I hope that this new-found sensitivity toward how women are portrayed in the media on the part of the Republicans will extend to policies that effect women but that is probably too much to hope for.
Dunn’s quip that America’s Morning News wasn’t a “legitimate news organization” has the look of a clash that’ll play out routinely in the future. Just last week, a similar episode occurred when a spokesman for the Democratic National Committee leaked e-mails from a reporter for the Daily Caller. Whether it’s right-wing media outlets reporting on left-wing political types or the reverse, there’s always some bitterness in the transaction.
The Erik Wemple blog is happy to facilitate question-answering between ambush-style journalists and key Washington figures of whatever political orientation. We provide the service pro bono.