Clearly, the White House hasn’t quite figured out the difference between the two.  Now, I will say that some many who complain about liberal bias in the media and quote Keith Olbermann to, in part, prove it also need this bit of education.  (Quoting Keith Olbermann to show he’s an unserious clown is an entirely different matter.)  But the White House ought to certainly understand the difference.

After spending the week declaring that Fox News Channel isn’t a real news organization because it has perspective (while at the same time ignoring perspective of a worse kind from so many other news organizations), Jake Tapper of ABC News got White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs to determine what the standard was for "perspective".

Tapper: "That’s a sweeping declaration that they’re not a news organization. How are they different from say, ABC, MSNBC, Univision?"

Gibbs: "You and I should watch around 9:00 tonight or 5:00 this afternoon."

Tapper: "I’m not talking about the opinion programs or issues you have with certain reports. I’m talking about saying that thousands of individuals who work for a media organization do not work for a news organization. Why is that appropriate for the White House to say?"

Gibbs: "That is our opinion."

On FNC, the 9:00 hour is Sean Hannity’s show, and Glenn Beck runs at 5:00.  So expressing viewpoints, on shows that are not news shows but are transparently and openly opinionated, by the White House’s lights, disqualifies you from being a news organization.

Well, apparently there’s more to that than just expressing viewpoints.  Else, why would the President himself have had MSNBC’s Olberman and Rachel Maddow as part of an off-the-record briefing?  Apparently it’s not just perspective that’s the problem.  It’s disagreement they’re trying to suppress.

Because you know that other news organizations are watching how this administration is treating FNC.  The message is clear, "If you want access, you will tow the line."  True, other administrations have had issues with the press, and with specific networks or newspapers, in the past.  But Obama is taking this into uncharted territory. 

Ostracizing a news network for it’s opinion shows critical of you is way, way out of line.  While it’s not technically violating the First Amendment, since there are no legal impediments being thrown up to Fox News, the spirit of the amendment is being violated.  This is either thin skin or something worse.  I hope it’s the former, but I’m watching out for the latter.

Doug Payton blogs at Considerettes.

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