Liberals in the press love to celebrate the brave days when they were subversive, publishing the “Pentagon Papers” against the government’s wishes and bringing down Richard Nixon with the Watergate scandal. They also celebrate themselves for ending the “reign of terror” of Sen. Joe McCarthy. The press should never let the government dictate its coverage, they proclaim.
But add this exception: “Unless a Democrat is president.” With the current, growing problem of tens of thousands of illegally immigrating children, the Obama administration has established severe restrictions on the press. Where are the Murrows and Woodwards and Bernsteins now? They’re not exactly pressing for answers.
In the first summer of Obama’s presidency, leftist reporter Helen Thomas railed against then-spokesman Robert Gibbs for his news management: “Nixon didn’t try to do that,” Thomas said. “They couldn’t control (the media). They didn’t try. What the hell do they think we are, puppets?” That’s been the image that many Americans see.
Consider the many restrictions from the Department of Health and Human Services when reporters will be briefly allowed into Fort Sill in Oklahoma on Thursday to see how the government is managing the massive influx of child migrants.
On CNN’s “New Day” on Tuesday morning, Oklahoma Rep. Jim Bridenstine railed against the new Obama rules:
“It will be a 40-minute tour, but you can't ask questions. You can't talk to the staff. You can't talk to the medical doctors. You can't talk to the children. If you would like to take pictures, you can't do that, but we'll send pictures to you. This is the kind of media that they had in the former Soviet Union. This is not the kind of unfettered access that we expect in the United States, especially if the president is going to ask us for $2 billion.”
His interviewer, CNN anchor Kate Bolduan, didn’t have any concern for the media restrictions. She wanted the congressman to accept blame for the problem: “They're dealing with a law that was passed during the Bush administration relating to trafficking that might be hindering this process. Can you support that change?” When Bridenstine said he might, she added some editorializing: “We’ll see if you can support that – that would be good to see.”
So it’s always “good to see” Republicans cooperating with Obama, which is apparently more desirable than to see the Obama administration opening up to the media.
On July 1, Bridenstine arrived at Fort Sill to investigate the immigrant situation, but the official in charge came out and said he would have to wait three weeks to be granted access. How’s that for transparency in the Obama years?
On July 3, the Tulsa World reported that Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin visited Fort Sill on June 20, but “media were not allowed.” Fallin spokesman Alex Weintz said the governor requested that media be allowed to join the tour, or at least have photos or recordings of the facility, but the request was denied.
“She asked to have media visits at some point, and to my knowledge that has not happened,” Weintz said. “Or, if it has, it’s been very limited. We continue to have concerns about transparency at the facility.”
Bridenstine released the HHS email about the press restrictions on Monday, and except for Fox and CNN, the other networks have yet to cover the strict media curbs – although CBS reporter Vicente Arenas relayed from Arizona on Monday evening that “The Department of Homeland Security has denied our request to go inside to this facility at Nogales, citing the age of the children held here.”
There’s been no mention in the Associated Press, The New York Times or The Washington Post.
USA Today carried nothing except immigration reporter Alan Gomez lamenting that “I have a very hard time understanding how anybody could object to the idea that the United States should properly house and care for these kids while their cases are resolved. Hundreds of children making the dangerous trek across the border are just toddlers, younger than 2 years old. Yet I've been asked why Border Patrol agents don't throw these young immigrants back across the Mexican border.”
Gomez somehow wasn’t wondering why the media couldn’t be trusted to talk to any of these children.
Blogs covering journalism news – such as Columbia Journalism Review, JimRomenesko.com, MediaBistro.com, the Nieman Journalism Lab and Poynter’s MediaWire – haven’t been interested in this disgraceful story of media manipulation. Instead, they are wondering if Sarah Palin is pitching herself to “The View.”
Apparently, the liberal media now resemble the journalistic trend former CBS News anchorman Dan Rather railed against in a speech 20 years ago: "Do powder puff, not probing interviews ... Kiss ass, move with the mass and, for heaven and ratings’ sake, don't make anybody mad."
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center's Director of Media Analysis and co-author (with Brent Bozell) of "Collusion: How the Media Stole the 2012 Election and How to Stop Them From Doing It In 2016."