Last week Kirsten Powers, one of the more visible Democratic contributors to Fox News, wrote a lengthy piece for that organization’s website called “Obama vs. Fox News –behind the White House strategy to delegitimize a news organization.” In it she rather shockingly set herself apart from her more radical cohorts on the left by demonstrating a willingness to denounce them for their demonization of Fox and their assault on freedom of the press. She may be one of the last pundits on the left to adhere, at least in this instance, to classical liberal values.
“There is no war on terror for the Obama White House,” her op-ed began, “but there is one on Fox News.” She was referring to a recent interview with The New Republic in which President Obama complained yet again about, as she put it, “the one television news outlet in America that won’t fall in line and treat him as emperor… the media meanies at Fox News.” Unaccustomed to being held accountable by an adoring mainstream media, Obama has never even bothered to hide his frustration and irritation with Fox. In fact, the White House is brazenly open about its campaign to, as Powers wrote, “silence any dissent they detect in the press corps.”
Powers recounts some of the more recent instances of that campaign. For example, the White House excluded Fox News from conference calls dealing with the Benghazi debacle, “despite Fox News being the only outlet that was regularly reporting on it and despite Fox having top notch foreign policy reporters.” Actually, Fox was frozen out not so much despite its top notch focus on Benghazi as because of it, since Obama and Hilary Clinton would like to bury the controversy. The fact that Powers openly acknowledged Fox’s investigative quality rather than simply accusing the network of harassing the President over an issue that “doesn’t make a difference,” to paraphrase Clinton, is unheard of from the left.
Powers mentions other examples of the Obama administration’s antagonism toward Fox. His people left Chris Wallace’s Fox News Sunday out of a round of interviews that included CNN, NBC, ABC and CBS for not being part of a “legitimate” news network. In late 2009, senior adviser David Axelrod said on ABC’s This Week that Fox News is “not really a news station.” About that same time, then-White House Communications Director Anita Dunn said to the New York Times, “let’s not pretend they’re a news network the way CNN is.” This echoes Media Matters’ signature line about Fox in a 2010 memo to donors: “Fox News is not a news organization. It is the de facto leader of the GOP, and it is long past time that it is treated as such by the media, elected officials and the public.” Their CEO David Brock, Powers notes, has claimed that their strategy was a “war on Fox.”
“Can someone explain to me,” Powers wrote, “how it’s ‘liberal’ to try and shut down a media organization? What the Obama administration is doing, and what liberals are funding at [Media Matters] is beyond chilling – it’s a deep freeze.” She’s right – it’s not “liberal” at all, and neither is the contemporary totalitarian left. She goes on to excoriate Media Matters further for its threats to collect dirt on Fox News employees and to sue conservatives for “slanderous” comments about progressives. “If the White House can call one news outlet illegitimate for asking tough questions, then guess who is next? Anyone”:
It is clear now that the idea of freedom of the press actually offends Media Matters… They say they are “consider[ing] pushing prominent progressives to stop appearing on Fox News.” For those who defy the order, they threaten to start daily publishing the names of Democrats who appear in order to shame them. If that doesn’t work, presumably they will just shave our heads and march us down Constitution Avenue.
Don’t tempt them, Ms. Powers. They’re champing at the bit to do just that sort of thing to traitors like you who dare challenge their monolithic front. And kudos to you for calling them on it – although confining her criticism to Media Matters is way too limiting, considering that progressives in general find free speech and freedom of the press to be impediments to their lust for power.
One stretch in particular of Kirsten Powers’ op-ed is worth quoting at length, because it exhibits a rather courageous degree of self-criticism:
Whether you are liberal or conservative, libertarian, moderate or politically agnostic, everyone should be concerned when leaders of our government believe they can intentionally try to delegitimize a news organization they don’t like.
In fact, if you are a liberal – as I am – you should be the most offended, as liberalism is founded on the idea of cherishing dissent and an inviolable right to freedom of expression.
That more liberals aren’t calling out the White House for this outrageous behavior tells you something about the state of liberalism in America today.
Indeed it does. If only Powers would pursue this line of thinking to its logical end – that the “liberalism” she is describing is actually the domain of conservatives. The leftists she’s addressing here no longer have a truly liberal bone in their collective body. They are totalitarians, and it is today’s conservatives who are the guardians of classically liberal principles.
“We defend freedom of the press because of the principle, not because we like everything the press does,” Powers adds. “For example, I defend MSNBC’s right to run liberal programming to their hearts content. The media should be held accountable, including Fox News.” So it should – and so conservatives have been insisting through years of the media’s nauseating idolatry of Obama.
Kirsten Powers remains a Democrat, no doubt about it. There are still many issues on which she and conservatives would disagree. But at least on this point, her vigorous defense of freedom of the press against the repressive elements of her own party deserves our appreciation.
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