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Woodward: I never said Sperling’s ‘regret’ comment was a threat

Updated

The odd back-and-forth between the White House and the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward continued into Friday on Morning Joe when former Obama Senior Adviser David Axelrod sparred with the reporter.

For the uninitiated, here’s a quick primer. The flare-up mainly deals with an email exchange between Woodward and Gene Sperling, the director of the National Economic Council, following a Washington Post op-ed in which Woodward claimed President Obama had “moved the goalposts” on the budget deal with sequestration.

Woodward later went on television to claim that a “senior White House official” (Sperling) had pushed back on the piece and been less than gracious and intimidating. After Politico published the email exchange, in the process revealing more a cordial exchange than a fight, Woodward received criticism from journalists and pundits.

Friday, he appeared to defend his initial claims.

“I never said it was a threat,” Woodward told the panel on Friday. “Gene Sperling is one of the really decent, hardworking people I’ve deal with…This wasn’t a factual disagreement; this was a disagreement about I was challenging [the White House] on something and Gene said we’re not going to see eye to eye, and you’re going to regret staking out this claim.”

Woodward continued that he’d had many disagreements with Axelrod, but Axelrod had never said “You’re going to regret reaching a conclusion that we don’t like.”

Axelrod responded by saying Sperling’s emails were actually not heated.

Here’s part of the conversation:

Axelrod: The headline in the Washington Post, your newspaper, is ‘Woodward says that he was threatened by the White House…

Woodward: I never have. Come on, you know that

Axelrod: I don’t know if you’ve spoken to your editors about that, but they got the impression from what you said that you felt that you were being threatened…When the full emails came out, they were as cordial as they could be.


Meanwhile, the sequester deadline was midnight, and it will begin going into effect Friday. Woodward maintains its effects rather than an email exchange is really what matters.

“The issue here…is the automatic spending cuts and the sequester and how we got there and what it’s going to mean to people. It’s often a technique employed by the White House either unintentionally or intentionally to say ‘Oh, let’s make the…press the issue’ rather than [focus on] what they did. To people out in the real world the issue is the automatic spending cuts,” Woodward said.

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Woodward: I never said Sperling's 'regret' comment was a threat

Updated