White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Tuesday pointed to two top-rated opinion shows on Fox News as the reason why the Obama administration has castigated the network as an illegitimate news organization.
Gibbs weighed in on the controversy after several top White House advisers have gone on other channels to criticize Fox News' coverage of the administration, dismiss the network as the mouthpiece of the Republican Party and urge other news organizations not to treat Fox News as a legitimate news station.
Gibbs said White House officials "render (that) opinion based on some their coverage and the fairness of that coverage."
But asked how Fox News was different from other news organizations, Gibbs mentioned the channel's 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. shows, in an explicit reference to "Beck" and "Hannity" -- even though those two shows represent opinion programming.
Informed that those hours are for opinion programming, Gibbs said: "That is our opinion."
Michael Clemente, senior vice president of news for Fox News, issued a statement Tuesday defending the company.
"Hundreds of journalists come to work each day at Fox News all deeply committed to their craft. It's disappointing that the White House would be so dismissive of their fine work and continue their vengeful war against a news organization," he said.
The White House also appeared to stand by its effort to urge other networks to isolate and alienate the channel. Gibbs said Tuesday that it's up to the White House Correspondents Association to decide whether Fox News should continue to be part of the White House pool which covers President Obama.
"I'm not going to delineate for the White House Correspondents Association how the pool is conducted. That's not my job," he said.
The pool, the rotation through which the networks share the costs and duties of White House coverage, represents the most significant interaction among the news channels. Despite the Obama administration's guidance to other channels to disregard Fox News, there are no indications so far from the other networks that the pool relationship will change.
Obama senior adviser David Axelrod on Sunday called on media outlets to join the administration in declaring that Fox News is "not a news organization."
"Other news organizations like yours ought not to treat them that way," Axelrod counseled ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "We're not going to treat them that way."
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel told CNN on Sunday that Obama does not want "the CNNs and the others in the world (to) basically be led in following Fox."