The White House's communications staff announced this week that it was charting out a new, more aggressive strategy this past week, defined largely by a pledge to push back hard against news stories that are either inaccurate or unflattering.
On Sunday, the strategy was on full display as communications director Anita Dunn gave a lengthy and brutal denunciation of Fox News, calling the cable outlet a vehicle for Republican Party propaganda and an ideological opponent of the president.
Here are just a few choice nuggets from Dunn's appearance on CNN's Reliable Sources
"If we went back a year ago to the fall of 2008, to the campaign, that was a time this country was in two wars that we had a financial collapse probably more significant than any financial collapse since the Great Depression. If you were a Fox News viewer in the fall election what you would have seen were that the biggest stories and the biggest threats facing America were a guy named Bill Ayers and a something called ACORN."
"The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party. And it is not ideological... what I think is fair to say about Fox, and the way we view it, is that it is more of a wing of the Republican Party."
"Obviously [the President] will go on Fox because he engages with ideological opponents. He has done that before and he will do it again... when he goes on Fox he understands he is not going on it as a news network at this point. He is going on it to debate the opposition."
"[Fox is] widely viewed as a part of the Republican Party: take their talking points and put them on the air, take their opposition research and put it on the air. And that's fine. But let's not pretend they're a news organization like CNN is."
Dunn's remarks are notably blunt and direct, especially from a White House that has received a large amount of flattering coverage and, when it doesn't, usually airs its grievances in private. They also are a bit misleading, as both the president's staff and its campaign arms at the DNC have cultivated favored members of the media of their own to which they routinely feed access and opposition research. It's a fact of politics and press, regardless of which party is in power.
In response, Senior Vice President of News for FOX News Michael Clemente defended the network in the following statement to CNN's Reliable Sources:
An increasing number of viewers are relying on FOX News for both news and opinion. And the average news consumer can certainly distinguish between the A section of the newspaper and the editorial page, which is what our programming represents. So, with all due respect to anyone who still might be confused about the difference between news reporting and vibrant opinion, my suggestion would be to talk about the stories and the facts rather than attack the messenger...which over time, has never worked.
All told, the Obama administration clearly is pursuing a strategy of direct engagement when it comes to the fourth estate - one in which even the most trivial of unflattering stores do not go unanswered. Earlier in the week, Dunn told Time Magazine that she and her team were no longer going to "just sit back and defend ourselves, because [conservative media] will say anything. They will take any small thing and distort it."
The next day, the DNC ripped apart a short but rather absurd article in Politico that revealed Obama's presidential campaign had received $34,000 from defenders of troubled filmmaker Roman Polanski.