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Fox News Exec On Attempted Feinberg Interview Snub: We Requested Feinberg Interview, Gibbs Acknowledged Mistake

Huffington Post   Danny Shea First Posted: 03/18/10 06:12 AM ET Updated: 05/25/11 03:25 PM ET

Feinberg Fox News

A Fox News executive told the Huffington Post Saturday that the network "absolutely" did request an interview with Obama administration "pay czar" Kenneth Feinberg and that the White House acknowledged a mistake on the part of a Treasury department staffer in failing to initially include Fox News in the round of interviews Feinberg conducted Thursday.

"Of course we requested an interview," Fox News Senior Vice President Michael Clemente told the Huffington Post.

This directly contradicts reports by the Associated Press and Talking Points Memo, both of which reported that the White House had excluded Fox News because it did not request an interview.

Whether Fox News requested an interview was irrelevant in this case, however, as the interview was conducted a pool including ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and Fox News.

Clemente said that CBS News Washington Bureau Chief and current pool chairman Chris Isham — who did not respond to phone or e-mail requests for comment Saturday — received a call from the Treasury Department Thursday saying that Feinberg would be available to speak to all of the networks in the pool except for Fox News, and that Bloomberg would be included instead.

Clemente said that when Isham presented that scenario on a conference call with the other pool members — including Fox News — "they unanimously said, instantly, no, that's not gonna fly. Either Fox is in or none of us is doing it."

Once Isham relayed that message to Treasury, Treasury cleared it with White House Communications Director Anita Dunn, who approved Feinberg's interview with Fox News' Major Garrett.

Clemente said, however, that there was now a catch: every network would get two minutes with Feinberg instead of the previously planned five.

"That's not very normal," he said. "I'm told that whoever was there was absolutely militaristic about the time limit. Usually two or four or five minutes means, 'Ask your last question,' with a little flexibility. But there was none."

Clemente added that White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs acknowledged to Fox News' White House Correspondent Major Garrett that a low level Treasury staffer made a mistake in attempting to exclude Fox from the pool interviews.

The pool is designed to save both time and money by using one camera and crew for interviews to air across all pool member networks.

"If any member had been excluded it would have been the same thing, it has nothing to do with Fox or the White House or the substance of the issues," one pool network bureau chief told TPM Friday. "It's all for one and one for all."

CBS News' Chip Reid described the situation Friday on the "CBS Evening News."

"All the networks said, that's it, you've crossed the line," Reid said.

These accounts contradict a Treasury Department statement to Mediaite Friday, which said, "There was no plot to exclude Fox News."

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