The White House is continuing to push back against the allegation, leveled by Fox News and CBS, that the Obama administration tried to exclude Fox News from interviews with pay czar Ken Feinberg. The White House is pushing two stories, and I’m not sure which one (or both) is their current explanation.
One story says that the decision was made by a low-level Treasury staffer. Robert Gibbs reportedly admitted that doing so was a mistake. The White House now insists that Gibbs did not apologize, but that seems to be mere hair-splitting, since Gibbs does not deny the exchange but merely says that they have no reason to apologize.
The second story sounds like a lie, but the first could be true. It’s also consistent with the Treasury Department’s statement that “there was no plot to exclude Fox News,” in which the word “plot” leaves open that this was one person acting on his own. The White House seems to feel that this excuses them, but the fact is, that staffer was doubtless doing what he thought he was supposed to do, given the White House’s official position on Fox News.
The other thing that is interesting is that I’ve seen in a few places (here and here, for example) that some of the other pool networks are privately saying that they stood up for Fox for their own reasons, and not out of journalistic integrity. Ooo-kay. Duly noted.
Here’s Major Garrett’s report on the controversy:
UPDATE (8/2/2011): Emails show that the White House did make a specific effort to exclude Fox News, and their denials were lies.