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Biden White House takes a keen interest in Fox News’ controversy

In 2009, Barack Obama’s White House took a few pointed shots at Fox News. This year, Joe Biden and his team are dipping their toes in similar waters.


As Barack Obama’s presidency got underway, officials at the Democratic White House couldn’t help but notice that Fox News, which spent years celebrating his immediate predecessor, had launched a relentless campaign against them. There was some internal debate about how and whether to respond, but by the fall of 2009, Team Obama decided to throw a few elbows at its cable news detractor.

The pushback from parts of the Beltway was surprisingly swift. The Washington Post published an item slamming the Democratic White House’s criticisms of Fox as “dumb,” “childish,” “petty,” and “self-defeating.” Republican senators went to the chamber floor to equate Obama with Richard Nixon, while decrying White House officials for creating an “enemies list.”

To hear the critics tell it, the problem wasn’t that Obama and his team had made untrue claims, but rather, there was something inherently unseemly about the White House daring to rebuke a conservative media outlet.

It wasn’t long before those concerns appeared rather quaint: Donald Trump condemned effectively all independent media as “fake news” and the “enemy of the people.” The Republican, while in office, also quite literally suggested that some media outlets might’ve committed “treason” with reports he disapproved of.

With this in mind, perhaps President Joe Biden and his team can dip their toes into the same waters in which Obama swam 14 years ago?

In an interview that aired earlier this week, for example, the incumbent Democratic president sat down with ABC News’ David Muir, who asked about public attitudes. Biden responded by referencing some concerns regarding one specific media outlet:

“We’re finding out now that one of the outlets has decided that they even put things on [the air] they know to be false in order to increase their ratings. So, I think things are a little out of whack.”

Biden didn’t mention Fox News by name, but there was no great mystery as to the story the president was referencing: A recent court filing from Dominion Voting Systems presented evidence that the media outlet apparently promoted bogus election claims they knew to be false, on purpose, in order to placate its audience and make money.

As Semafor noted, the White House took a related step yesterday, in response to a Fox News attack piece against Biden. White House spokesperson Andrew Bates emailed the network a statement for the article suggesting Fox’s audience “carefully consider whether they trust your article.”

In the statement, Andrew Bates cited reporting on how Lachlan Murdoch encouraged Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott to paper over negative coverage of former President Donald Trump.

This was, of course, in reference to this week’s revelations, which included News Corp. Executive Chairman Rupert Murdoch acknowledging under oath that some prominent Fox News hosts “endorsed” baseless claims the network knew to be wrong.

To be sure, the Biden White House’s rhetorical shots at its cable critics are mild, but given the circumstances, and the seriousness of Fox News’ burgeoning controversy, it seems likely there will be less Beltway pushback than there was in 2009.