Critics Warn Glowing Obama Coverage Reflects Growing Media Infatuation

NBC's "Today Show" opened Wednesday morning with President Obama swatting a fly. 

Network anchor Brian Williams recently appeared to bow to the president during a special from inside the White House for which NBC got unprecedented access. 

Next week, ABC is teaming up with Obama to produce a prime-time "town hall" on health care reform at the White House, featuring special programming on all its broadcasts. 

Too much love? 

Critics suggest all these incidents and more point to a still-growing media infatuation with Obama. 

"Just try to put into context how ridiculous this ABC quote-unquote discussion is -- just try to imagine a world where an ABC would give George W. Bush a two-hour opportunity to have a quote-unquote discussion with the American people on the War on Terror," said Brent Bozell, president of the conservative Media Research Center. 

The criticism isn't just reserved for the mainstream TV networks but also for print publications. 

Newsweekly magazines sporting Obama's image have been among the top-selling issues. Newsweek, for example, has put him on the cover 19 times since 2004. 

"I keep picking up Newsweek magazines and there's Barack Obama, he is the cover, and I'm just wondering how many covers of Newsweek can you actually be on?" said Phil Bronstein, editor at large for the San Francisco Chronicle. "Because I think we have probably gone past whatever previous limit there was for Newsweek." 

In an interview with CNBC, Obama was asked about the fawning coverage he's received. 

"I think that, actually, the reason that people have been generally positive about what we've tried to do is they feel as if I'm available and willing to answer questions, and we haven't been trying to hide the ball," Obama said. 

Despite his careful response, the president is no doubt aware of his effect on reporters. 

He directly addressed his press coverage, early on in his political career, in his second memoir, "The Audacity of Hope." 

"For a three-year span, from the time that I announced my candidacy for the Senate to the end of my first year as a senator, I was the beneficiary of unusually - and at times undeservedly - positive press coverage," Obama wrote. "No doubt some of this had to do with my status as an underdog in my Senate primary, as well as my novelty as a black candidate with an exotic background."

He said it might also have to do with his "style of communicating," which, while he admitted can be "rambling," may also find him "sympathy in the literary class." 

"I've watched the press cast me in a light that can be hard to live up to," Obama wrote. 

At last month's White House Correspondents' Association dinner, he also joked: "Most of you covered me. All of you voted for me." He exempted the "FOX table" in this statement. 

Liberal media critics say positive coverage is pretty standard for a new administration. 

"I think conservatives are confusing being in the minority with being victims of liberal bias," said Media Matters' Eric Boehlert. "I mean one of the perks of winning the White House is you get the platform, you get the megaphone and the press pays attention to you." 

ABC News defended its decision to hold its health care reform special, releasing a statement saying: "ABC News will have complete editorial control. To suggest otherwise is quite unfair to both our journalists and our audience." 

The Republican National Committee suggested the event could become a glorified infomercial.

Advocacy group Conservatives for Patients Rights, which is critical of Obama's health care proposals, also released a statement Wednesday complaining that ABC News was not accepting paid ads during its health care special -- the group wanted to present a paid-for "alternative viewpoint." 

Other critics say that, overall, this is the most favorable press coverage for a president in decades. 

"This is a press corps that has invested its heart and its soul, its journalistic soul in this man, they are going to do everything in their power to get a return on their investment," Bozell said.

Mike Emanuel currently serves as chief congressional correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He joined FNC in 1997 as a Los Angeles-based correspondent.