Fox News
February 28, 2013

Exclusive: Bob Woodward speaks out on heated exchange with White House

Guests: Bob Woodward

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," February 28, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: In just a moment I'll be joined by Bob Woodward for an exclusive interview about whether or not he feels he's being threatened by the Obama White House. But first, here is the back story.

Now, months ago, Woodward being a veteran journalist in Washington wrote the definitive book on the sequester, and in recent weeks, an outspoken critic of the Obama administration for their very poor handling of the situation.

Now late yesterday, Woodward revealed that a senior Obama advisor told him he would quote, "Regret doing this." Now, the White House came out almost immediately denying this happened and Politico obtained the e-mail exchange that was obviously leaked and revealed that the senior White House official who said this morning was none other than the president's economic advisor, Gene Sperling.

Now the e-mail sent to Woodward on February 22nd, reads in part, "I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. My bad. I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall, but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest. But perhaps we'll just not see eye to eye here. But I do truly believe that you should rethink your comment about saying that the POTUS" -- that's the president -- "asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim."

Now earlier today, the White House briefing, Jay Carney he puts his liberal spin on all of these. Let's watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gene Sperling told BobWoodward might regret his recording, what was intended?

JAY CARNEY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Jessica, don't you think it would be the responsible thing to ask that question in the context of the full e-mail since he we know what the full e-mail said. Gene Sperling in keeping with a demeanor I have been familiar with for more than 20 years was incredibly respectful. Referred to Mr. Woodward as his friend and apologized for raising his voice. I think you cannot read those e-mails and come away with the impression that Gene was threatening anybody.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: Now, Sperling and Carney are not the only members of team Obama to take a swipe at Bob Woodward over the last couple of weeks. Last night former Obama adviser David Plouffe tweeted, "Watching Woodward the last two days is like imagining my idol Mike Schmidt facing live pitching again. Perfection gained once is rarely repeated."

Now folks, let's remember who Mr. Woodward is. The Obama administration is trying to discredit the man who exposed the Watergate scandal in the 1970s that ultimately led to President Richard Nixon's resignation, and this is the journalist that the Obama-White House is now trying to discredit?

HANNITY: Now ultimately in the end I think the Obama administration they're going to be the ones who regret picking this fight. And joining me now with reaction is the author of the New York Times best seller, "The Price of Politics." The one and only Bob Woodward.

Bob as always, welcome back to the program.

BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR: Thank you.

HANNITY: Let's start at the beginning. Tell us about the conversation.

WOODWARD: With Gene Sperling?

HANNITY: Yes.

WOODWARD: Yes, I mean, it was a half hour in which he was shouting at me. Now, I've known him for 20 years and I e-mailed back don't I don't worry about shouts, but he was really worked up and, and then he sent me that email apologizing and you know, saying I'm going to regret taking this stand.

Now, what we're talking about here is not a fact. He's not arguing with a fact because beforehand he said we're just not going to see eye to eye on this, it's an interpretation. Obviously, he didn't like being challenged on this at all. But you know, people have said, well, this was a threat or I was saying it was a threat. I haven't used that language, but it's not the way to operate in a White House.

It's not-- as you know, when somebody says you're going to regret something, particularly somebody in a position of power like Gene Sperling, he's not just a guy in the White House, he is the economic "czar" for the president. He did the same thing for Bill Clinton. He had the same job.

So, when you say you're going to regret challenging us, I just think that's a mistake, and if you go back into the history and what other people are saying now about the Obama White House, Ron Fournier of National Journal wrote a piece that he's actually refused to talk to somebody in the White House because the language he gets from this person is so belligerent.

HANNITY: Do you feel that that's been a pattern with you in this White House? Did you feel at any time threatened either during the phone call, or did you feel that it was a threat when he wrote the word, "You'll regret this"?

WOODWARD: Look, what happened here, I wrote a piece Sunday in the Washington Post on the op-ed page, and they got caught about being the father of the sequester and they, for two or three months denied that to Gene -- to Jay Carney's credit he came out and said, look, yes, the idea originated here. It's not only about who originated it, but think about what this sequester is. It is one of the most irresponsible ideas.

Now, Republicans signed up for this, there's absolutely no question about it, but you look at the details of this and just the way it came about, it's you and I sitting down and saying, what are the things you really love, let's cut-- pass a law cutting those things to ribbons and then let's take the things I love and put that in the law, we'll cut those to ribbons. That's the sequester.

And it is one of these things that is now being debated. You know, what is the impact of it going to be? We don't know, obviously, but they got caught and so this is an old trick, make the conduct of the press the issue rather than their conduct.

HANNITY: By the way, dealing with the liberal media, I've gotten a lot of this over the course of my career, Bob. So -- and a lot of your liberal colleagues, I notice have turned on you. I want to get to that in a minute.

But let me -- this is important. I read your book cover to cover and I've now gone back and referred to it a number times. And your book, in many ways it's a double blow to President Obama, because number one, it reveals the sequester idea was his. Number two, that he has lied about it. He lied about it in the debate with Mitt Romney and he has lied about it since. So you exposed that and you also exposed the idea of moving the goal posts as the president now requests tax increases associated with this. Do you acknowledge, do you think the president lied?

WOODWARD: No. Look, I'm not going to use words like that. I mean, that -- I think we need to tune down the rhetoric her here. I mean, out in the great public which is much more important than those of us in Washington, to say the least. They're wondering, what the hell is going on here? This is -- these people cannot talk to each other, they can't make arrangements to protect the national security to -- I mean, it is -- I thought about this a little bit. The biggest story in Washington now is the town itself.

HANNITY: I agree with you.

WOODWARD: And how crazed this has become and you know, who knows where this goes.

HANNITY: What do we to say about it? Because -- you're standing by your reporting.

WOODWARD: Of course.

HANNITY: You're standing by your story.

But you're saying that it was Obama's idea, he claimed it's not. You -- he said it was not, so you're standing, saying he's not telling the truth and in other words, use whatever words you want, and that he did move the goal post. They deny that, and it was Jay Carney after your article came out in the post that said you were willfully wrong. Sounds to me like he's accusing you of lying.

WOODWARD: Let's look at this. I spent two months reporting on how they came to the sequester and how the super committee worked. The White House was really not involved in this. They monitored it. I spent a long time -- in fact, a producer from "60 Minutes" called me up and said we understand -- when I was working on "The Price of Politics" -- you're doing a book about the super committee.

I said no, it's just part. They said, "Well, everyone says you've got all of these notes, you've talked to people, you've got diaries." As best as anyone can, I have the story of what happened here and it came from the Obama White House. It is something designed to never go into effect. It's going to go into effect. God help us that it does -- is not the spark that sends the economy down, that because it is -- I mean, the people in business, the people in politics, the people outside of Washington are dumbfounded and bewildered.

HANNITY: Why should it matter? If the president suggested the sequestration and then the president denied that he requested the sequestration and the president had a deal that he wasn't going to ask for tax increases and then later does and says, no, that's not true, and they attack you as, well, being willfully wrong, why should this matter? I mean, don't we deserve our government to be honest with us?

WOODWARD: Exactly. And I'm almost 70 years old, I hate to acknowledge. I've done this for four decades. I will keep doing it in some form. But something that -- you know, the White House saying, you're doing these things when you've worked months on it and you have the documents and Jay Carney actually acknowledges paternity for the sequester from the White House. The problem is, there are all kinds of reporters who are much less experienced, who are younger, and if they're going to get roughed up in this way, and I am flooded from emails from people in the press saying this is exactly how the White House works. They're trying to control and they don't want to be challenged or crossed.

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