Rachel Maddow weighed in on the ongoing dust-up between the White House and Fox News and the collective freak-out by Fox and the right wing over herse
October 23, 2009

Rachel Maddow weighed in on the ongoing dust-up between the White House and Fox News and the collective freak-out by Fox and the right wing over herself and Keith Olberman, among others, being invited to a meeting at the White House. She wrapped it up with this statement:

Maddow: You can be upset all you want that the president meets with people who you disagree with. But consider being fair and balanced in your criticism, at least admit that this White House has met with both sides while the Bush White House did not. You should especially admit that if you happened to have been a member of the Bush White House during that administration.

Keith joined Rachel later in the segment and talked about how hypocritical and completely disingenuous all of this pearl clutching has been by the right.

Transcript below the fold.

MADDOW: But we begin tonight with the escalating war of words between the Obama White House and one of the country‘s major news organizations. What had been a battle between White House aides and the FOX News Channel ratcheted up a level as President Obama himself has now stepped into the fray.

During an interview with NBC White House correspondent Savannah Guthrie, President Obama commented for the first time publicly about the ongoing feud between his administration and FOX News.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: What our advisors have simply said is that we are going to take media as it comes. And if media is operating basically as a talk-radio format, then that‘s one thing. And if it‘s operating as a news outlet, then that‘s another. But it‘s not something I‘m losing a lot of sleep over.


MADDOW: Over the past week, White House aides have been in a verbal war with FOX News Channel, calling FOX, quote, “Opinion journalism masquerading as news”; calling it, “The communications arm of the Republican Party”; calling it, quote, “not really a news station.”

It‘s a war that has gotten quite a lot of publicity lately and it‘s a war that, frankly, has not been all that bad of news for FOX News itself. After the president and his advisers made their case against FOX, that network has run with it and run with it in an attempt to presumably try to glean some commercial success from it.

Sean Hannity, for example, is now branding his show “Not White House Approved.” And one of the ways that FOX has decided to go after the White House on this is by going after Keith Olbermann and me.

On Monday of this week, Keith and I were part of big group of commentators and columnists attended an off-the-record meeting at the White House. Our attendance at that meeting has been breathlessly reported by FOX News as some sort of smoking gun evidence of a double standard by the White House.


BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS: A White House official confirms to us that the audience for Monday‘s off-the-record briefing with President Obama included MSNBC personalities Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow.

BILL O‘REILLY, FOX NEWS: And now we learn the president spent 2 ½ hours on Monday -- 2 ½ hours—meeting with the far-left media people. In addition, the president, David Axelrod, Rahm Emanuel, Robert Gibbs sat down with three columnists from “The New York Times” to MSNBC commentators, as well as variety of other committed left wingers.

MICHELLE MALKIN, CONSERVATIVE COLUMNIST: I think that the news-consuming audience ought to know what was discussed. We ought to know and it‘s ought to be disclosed what was discussed by those attendees when they talk about this White House and its policies.

GRETCHEN CARLSON, FOX NEWS: Apparently, in this reporter gaggle was Rachel Maddow and Keith Olbermann, who are opinion people over at MSNBC. I find that highly entertaining that they apparently were amongst these reporters, and they‘re officially fair and balanced apparently according to the White House.


MADDOW: Since Mr. Olbermann and I have been brought into this story by FOX News in this national story of White House versus FOX News, FOX News has decided to bring us into it, let‘s set the record straight here on what‘s being alleged and how the presidential—how various presidential administrations handle the media.

I have been in national talk radio since 2004. And during the Bush administration, I tried many times to get myself invitations to the White House when they held White House availabilities for administration staff or even meetings with the president for talk radio hosts. And although these meetings were billed as talk radio meetings, just talk radio meetings, they were always, in practice, during the Bush administration, exclusively for right-wing talk radio hosts. So, I could never get an invitation, much to my chagrin.

Here for example is President Bush in the Oval Office in October of 2006, meeting with right-wing commentators, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity, Michael Medved, Mike Gallagher, Neal Boortz—I‘m sure they‘re all very nice and diverse people, but I don‘t actually know any of them, but I do know that there‘s not a liberal among them.

Here‘s a nice little class photo of right-wing talk radio hosts when they met with President Bush in August 2007. There‘s Mark Levin, Neal Boortz, Hugh Hewitt, Scott Hennen, Bill Bennett, Michael Medved, Glenn Beck, Lars Larson, and Janet Parshall.

This is what the Bush administration did and they had every right to do it. They invited in talk radio hosts and columnist who agreed with them. And all of us who didn‘t agree with them were out of luck.

Well, now, it‘s the Obama era. And, frankly, I did get an invitation to the White House. And the Obama administration also meets with conservatives, too. The last meeting like this that I was invited to was back in January, just before President Obama was inaugurated. It was roughly the same group of people who attended the meeting this week, give or take a few additions and subtractions.

We met at the Obama transition office back in January. You want to know what happened the day after our meeting with the president-elect, he went to a gathering of conservative commentators at George Will‘s house in Chevy Chase, Maryland. “Washington Post” wrote it up at that time, they said, quote, “During a three hour dinner conclave, Obama charmed eight of the right‘s most prominent commentators.” According to an Obama adviser that time, “Obama enjoys debating his ideological opponents more than his allies and plans further meetings with journalists of varying stripes during his term.”

Liberals could not get an invitation to meet with President Bush to save our lives. President Obama is now inviting us in—and he‘s also been talking to people on the right.

You can be upset all you want that the president meets with people who you disagree with. But consider being fair and balanced in your criticism, at least admit that this White House has met with both sides while the Bush White House did not. You should especially admit that if you happened to have been a member of the Bush White House during that administration.


KARL ROVE, FMR. BUSH SENIOR ADVISOR: It is demeaning the office of the president by taking the president and moving him from a person who want to be talking to everybody and communicating through every available channel, but saying, “If you oppose me, if you question me, if you‘re too tough on me, by gosh, me and my people are not going—are not going to come out, we‘re going penalize you.” And that‘s just is wrong, fundamentally wrong.


MADDOW: If you‘re too tough on me, me and my people are not going to come on.

According to Mr. Rove, that sort of punishment is fundamentally wrong· That‘s something the Bush White House would never have done, right, former Bush White House Press Secretary Dana Perino?


DANA PERINO, FMR. WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Believe me there, were some people who really wanted me from the podium to go after MSNBC. And I just thought it was a bridge too far.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And not only did you not go after them, you gave them interviews as did the president, gave them all interviews.

PERINO: Well, towards the end, we didn‘t do a lot with MSNBC.


MADDOW: Oh, yes, right. MSNBC was frozen out at the end of the Bush administration and Bush officials now admit it.

The Bush administration had media wars of their own. You remember, back in 2000, when President Bush said this about a “New York Times” reporter named Adam Clymer.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FMR. U.S. PRESIDENT: There‘s Adam Clymer. A major league (BLEEP) from “The New York Times.”



MADDOW: Oh, yes, big time.

After that, would it surprise you to learn that President Bush never did one interview with “The New York Times” during his entire presidency? Not one in eight years?

And it wasn‘t just freezing out news organizations that they didn‘t like, it was paying conservative columnists to write articles that were favorable to their agenda, was calling on fake reporters during White House news conferences that lobbed softball questions. It was publicly attacking NBC News for its reporting on the Iraq war. It was even threatening to arrest and prosecute “New York Times” reporters for reporting on illegal spying.

You know, you can be upset with Keith Olbermann and with me all you want for attending a meeting at the White House with the president, but if we‘re going to fight about this, let‘s at least start with getting the record straight here.

Joining us now is Keith Olbermann. Hi, Keith, how are you?

OLBERMANN: You were—you went in January?

MADDOW: Yes. Are you mad?

OLBERMANN: I didn‘t go in January.

MADDOW: No, but.

OLBERMANN: It got lost in the mail.

MADDOW: I will tell you that when we went this week, there was food.

When we went in January, there was just water.

OLBERMANN: Well, they got their act together.

MADDOW: They got their act because they knew you were coming.

OLBERMANN: Yes, that‘s what it was.

MADDOW: First of all, let me just say, and this is a little bit unprofessional of me to do so. But I apologize for having been looking at the script the entire time I was doing that, our teleprompter is broken. So.

OLBERMANN: Oh, how delightful for you.

MADDOW: It worked OK for you?

OLBERMANN: Yes. You want to run cartoons the rest of the hour?

MADDOW: No. It just means I might be doing a lot of the show like this.


MADDOW: So—anyway.

OLBERMANN: After all, we are working with scripts provided by the White House.

MADDOW: Yes, exactly right. Well, OK. Karl Rove is now saying, “If we did anything like that, people would go nuts.”

OLBERMANN: Do you—people are talking about post-traumatic stress disorder in politics—do you ever feel like they‘re walking examples of this, like they have forgotten what they did half the time while in the White House?

This is exactly what they did. They had—not only did they have these meetings, but as you pointed out correctly, they were much more doctrinaire and much more politically—there were eligibles and ineligibles, and nobody ever cross from one to the other. They tried to manipulate the news. They paid Armstrong Williams as you noted.

It‘s just—it is—it is pot and kettle. And it‘s—it is stunning. And also, basically, conservatives got in there first this time with this president before he actually took office.


OLBERMANN: It‘s just—it‘s just—it‘s just confounding and stupid and silly, and it just looks like another thing that they want to wring their hands about as loudly as publicly as possible to scare people for no purpose whatsoever.

MADDOW: I think what‘s—I mean, the reason that I‘m leading with this is not only did the president address it himself, which I think makes it quite newsworthy, but I do also think that sort of mainstream take on this fight between the White House and FOX, the mainstream common wisdom sort of calcifying around the FOX argument that this is unprecedented and that it‘s somehow unfair and that FOX has being given the short end of the stick in a way that previous administrations have never done anything like this.

OLBERMANN: Other than the previous administration and in much greater degree. If we‘re going to—if we‘re going to talk about this, as you point out, that—those last eight years were attempts to manipulate where they could not completely control. I mean, they controlled FOX News on it. Clearly, I mean, there‘s no argument about that.

And then they went and proceeded to go after us particularly. This—most of this occurred before your show went on the air. But, I mean, there were—the abuse and the pressure behind the scenes stuff never let up. What the Obama people have done while, you know, really kind of cutting through the fog and not trying to be subtle at all is really kind of just raise an objection saying, “We don‘t think this is news.” They didn‘t say, “Hey, Major Garrett, you‘re not admitted here anymore.”

MADDOW: Right.

OLBERMANN: “Hey, by the way, we‘re not going to let you do live shots from the White House. You‘re not going to be on the plane,” or any of these things. There‘s no attempt to silence them. There‘s an attempt to say, “You know what, this is dangerous because this is often a way by which nonsense stories get trumped up through the purely political conversation kind of paranoid shows, like Glenn Beck and Hannity and O‘Reilly. They put out crazy stories or take obscure trivial ones, blow them up to gigantic proportions and then report the reaction to these stories in what are supposedly straight newscasts.


OLBERMANN: And that‘s the—that‘s stage one of it. And stage two of it is, of course, they then take—if you report on ACORN for 457 consecutive shows, every news organization in America is going to go, “Well, we didn‘t think this was any sort of story, maybe we‘re wrong. Let‘s look into. Let‘s do a story about why we didn‘t do a story.” And suddenly, there‘s an ACORN story on the front page of several leading newspapers. And I think it‘s a—it‘s a way to sort of bring in crap through the side door which is a secondary thing besides the obvious stuff that you see everyday on fox.

MADDOW: Interesting to me that they‘re not saying they‘re going to freeze out FOX altogether. They said that they will still make people available to the FOX stations. They‘re not even ruling out making the president available to FOX at some point. But they‘re just going to treat them as if they‘re talk radio.

And I think it‘s going to be interesting to see how that works out. Remember that—given that President Bush was happy to invite right-wing talk radio into the White House quite that way.

OLBERMANN: Non-stop and—you know, and got them cake and cookies and things although the meal was fabulous. That‘s what we can talk and we can say. We‘ve been authorized to talk about that.

MADDOW: The peach cobbler was spectacular.

OLBERMANN: And salmon melted in your mouth.

MADDOW: Very liberal salmon.


MADDOW: The host of MSNBC‘s “COUNTDOWN” and my pal, thank you for sticking around, Keith. Appreciate it.

OLBERMANN: Of course, need me to hand you scripts if things go wrong the rest of the way.

MADDOW: Maybe.


MADDOW: All right.

OLBERMANN: I‘ll just sit here for a little while.

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