The White House is blaming the controversy over its Web site and mass e-mails on viral rumors, "fear-mongering" and "sinister conspiracy theories" even as it acknowledges problems with its online practices.
After confirming to FOX News over the weekend that third-party groups could be responsible for official White House e-mails that have been sent to people who never signed up for them, President Obama's new media director took to the official White House blog to "clear up" the confusion.
In a posting Monday night, Macon Phillips again pointed the finger at "outside groups of all political stripes" but downplayed the backlash over the unwanted e-mails.
"An ironic development is that the launch of an online program meant to provide facts about health insurance reform has itself become the target of fear-mongering and online rumors that are the tactics of choice for the defenders of the status quo," he wrote. "Despite reports by some bloggers and others in the media that have invoked a variety of sinister conspiracy theories, more people signed up for updates last week than during the entire month of July."
Phillips confirmed that the White House had implemented new security measures on its Web site to prevent the problem. He insisted that the White House does not want any unsolicited e-mails going out.
"That's one reason why we have never -- and will never -- add names from a commercial or political list to the White House list," he wrote.
Phillips also confirmed that the e-mail account set up to field submissions from the public on "fishy" information about health care reform has been deactivated. This development was reported Monday morning by FOX News.
Critics had raised questions about how that information would be used and some accused the White House of fishing for entries for an "enemies list," a charge the White House rejected.
Phillips wrote that the White House takes "online privacy very seriously" and will not share personal information with anyone.
People can still submit "fishy" information about health care reform through the "reality check" Web site, set up by the White House last week to rebut health care rumors.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said he thinks the firstname.lastname@example.org e-mail was a good way for people to submit their concerns, but that it has been consolidated on the "reality check" page.
"It's consolidated from two platforms into one," he said Tuesday.
The controversy over both issues drew the attention of Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., on Monday.
The ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee wrote a letter to White House Counsel Greg Craig asking a long list of questions and saying he wants to obtain the "full truth" about the mass e-mails and the now-defunct White House e-mail account.
He said reports that people received an e-mail from White House adviser David Axelrod last week without having contacted the White House raise concerns that "political e-mail address lists are being used for official purposes."