Controversy over administration message to Bob Woodward

All-Star panel weighs in


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

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Well, veteran journalist Bob Woodward says that the White House was really badgering him over his comments about the sequester. Here is what he told CNN about an e-mail that he received. "It was said very clearly that you will regret doing this...It makes me feel very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters you are going to regret doing something that you believe in."

Here is the e-mail from Gene Sperling, quote, "I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying that the President of the United States, POTUS, 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."

So what about this back and forth? There have been other reporters since then that have come out and talked about this White House and the pressure they have felt from the White House. The White House obviously pushed back very hard today as did many on the left. We're back with the panel. Charles, your thoughts?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Look, I respect Woodward and I think he is right on the origins of the sequester and on Obama changing the terms by including tax hikes. But when you look at the memo, when you just look at it in isolation, I don't see it as a threat for two reasons. Number one, after he says you will regret, he goes on sentence after sentence, explaining that what he means is you will regret it because I think your facts are wrong in this instance.

But the most telling aspect of this is Woodward's e-mail response, which is a warm and polite, friendly response, in which there is no anger, there is no umbrage.  If you or I were threatened we would start our e-mail by saying "How dare you, you SOB?"

Now, this is not to say that the administration hasn't intimidated or threatened others. We heard from Lanny Davis --


BAIER: Let's listen to that. He was on the radio show WMAL in which he talked about actually an instance in which this White House reached out.


LANNY DAVIS, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: The word I was told was the word "threaten" by this editor, that if he continued to run my columns, he would lose or his reporters would lose their White House credentials. So that is unfortunate, it is an intemperate person.


BAIER: Of course Lanny Davis is former White House counsel for Bill Clinton, a Democrat.       
KRAUTHAMMER: If true, it's a threat. Ron Fournier of National Journal spoke today, he wrote a column about an attempt at intimidation. We all know at Fox how the administration has attempted intimidation, a way to marginalize Fox. And I, myself, was the subject of a volcanic attack by the chief of communication of the White House accusing me of issuing a false statement about Obama for which Pfeiffer, Dan Pfeiffer had to issue a public retraction and apology.

BAIER: That was classic, by the way, involving the Churchill statue.  Do you remember that one? I don't want to go back to that. Go ahead, continue. Rewind that tape.


KRAUTHAMMER: -- that would be a lot of fun. The point is I don't think this is an instance of the obvious thuggery of this administration in dealing with other journalists.

BAIER: Understood. The interesting thing was a David Plouffe tweet, Juan, in which he during this whole back-and-forth tweets this, "Watching Woodward the last two days is like imaging my idol, Mike Schmidt [of the Phillies] facing live pitching again. Perfection gained once is rarely repeated."  Why would a senior advisor take the time to do that? Well, doesn't it seem a little bit like maybe he was touching a nervous. Woodward?

JUAN WILLIAMS, SENIOR EDITOR, THE HILL: Woodward? I think Plouffe was touching a nerve there. I think Plouffe was skewering Woodward and I think being unfair to Woodward, but I think he was delighting in Woodward's circumstance and being mean-spirited about it. But if you know Plouffe, I don't think that is any surprise.

The surprise to me in the whole thing is I think the world of Bob Woodward, he's my former colleague, but I just don't think that he was threatened in any way. I am someone who has been threatened, believe me, by people, my life, my children. And I just think this is craziness. I just don't understand why he is doing it.  I have tremendous respect for Bob, though.

BAIER: Alright, quickly.

JUDGE ANDREW NAPOLITANO, FOX NEWS SENIOR JUDICIAL ANALYST: As the only non-Washingtonian at the table I think this is really in the weeds. The essence here is that the president suggested, created sequester and is now trying to walk back from it and Bob Woodward told the truth when he said that. I really don't think he was afraid of Gene Sperling. They're good buddies.

BAIER: Well, guess what? You get to hear from Bob Woodward tonight. Watch "Hannity" tonight at 9:00 p.m. He will interview Bob Woodward -- you can hear from the man himself.

That is it for this panel. We could talk about it all night, especially the Churchill statue, I promise you. Tune in for the merging of Hollywood and politics.

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