Obama and Fox: All is forgiven?


Howell Raines

Although it seems like years,  it wasn't that long ago when the Obama administration was ripping into the Fox News Channel, which unquestionably has held this president's feet to the fire harder than any other mainstream media outlet.

Former communications aide Anita Dunn called out the Rupert Murdoch-owned media conglomerate twice last October, deriding it as a wing of the Republican Party, and blasting the cable network as "opinion journalism masquerading as news."

But that was then, and this is now crunch time on getting a health care bill passed.  So tomorrow the president will spend some quality time on FSN's Special Report with Bret Baier.

It will be the first time that Obama has sat down with a Fox News reporter since he did an interview with Major Garrett last November, but the cold-as-ice stance that Dunn threw out last fall has been thawing of late, as first lady Michelle Obama recently appeared on Mike Huckabee's show to discuss her work on combating child obesity, and just last Sunday Press Secretary Robert Gibbs sat down in a relatively cordial one-on-one with Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace.

But the president, in what might be the waning days of his fight for health care reform, simply must put all his chips on the line.  Gibbs at the White House pressser was asked about POTUS' appearance:

Obama will give an interview on Fox News to discuss health care, a reporter notes -- why is he going on the network now? "Obviously, they have a pretty big audience share," Gibbs says, "and I think it's safe to say that a lot of members that are undecided are going to be -- they watch, and their constituents watch, this news. So we're happy to continue the argument on why health care reform is important to pass this year on Fox."

Asked if the White House hopes to change the minds of Fox viewers, Gibbs responds, "Certainly worth a shot."

Obama's audience isn't necessarily raging conservatives — that ship sailed a while ago, pardon the cliche.  No, it's conservative Democrats, of which there are a substantial amount in this country, and who might still be persuadable.

MoveOn.Org is also getting in on the act.  As of Tuesday afternoon, the liberal political action committee/liberal blog reported that they've sent out over a million faxes in the names of those who agree to give their name to the organization advocating for health care reform.

Obama's Fox News appearance comes just a few days after former New York Times Executive Editor Howell Raines excoriated Fox News and press corps colleagues in the op-ed pages of the Washington Post for failing to call out the channel for what Raines calls "a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration -- a campaign without precedent in our modern political history."  Raines does a take-down of Fox News President Roger Ailes and other journalists for allowing the cable network to dictate some of the emphasis of coverage on the health care debate:

Through clever use of the Fox News Channel and its cadre of raucous commentators, Ailes has overturned standards of fairness and objectivity that have guided American print and broadcast journalists since World War II. Yet, many members of my profession seem to stand by in silence as Ailes tears up the rulebook that served this country well as we covered the major stories of the past three generations, from the civil rights revolution to Watergate to the Wall Street scandals. This is not a liberal-versus-conservative issue. It is a matter of Fox turning reality on its head with, among other tactics, its endless repetition of its uber-lie: "The American people do not want health-care reform."

I wonder if Bret Baier will ask the president to comment on that tomorrow night?

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