WASHINGTON — White House advisers pledged on Sunday to book administration officials on Fox News despite claims by the president's inner circle that the cable network is a GOP mouthpiece whose programming "is geared toward making money."
Last week, White House communications director Anita Dunn said Fox News operates "almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party." On Sunday, Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama's chief of staff, said, "It is not a news organization so much as it has a perspective."
In response to the criticism, Fox News executive Michael Clemente on Sunday accused the White House of continuing to "declare war on a news organization" rather than focusing on issues such as jobs and health care.
"The door remains open and we welcome a discussion about the facts behind the issues," said Clemente, senior vice president of news, in a written statement.
Fox News commentators Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity have been strong Obama critics, and Bill O'Reilly has taken tough looks at the administration. Obama avoided Fox News Sunday when he visited five Sunday morning news shows last month; three aides carried the administration's message on Afghanistan, health care and the economy this Sunday to ABC, CBS, CNN and NBC, but not Fox; and a recent White House blog post accused Beck of lying. Beck has called Obama a racist.
Karl Rove, a Fox News contributor and former White House adviser to President George W. Bush, said the Obama administration is trying to demonize Fox News for asking questions officials do not like. He compared Obama's approach to that of President Richard Nixon, who included journalists on an "enemies list."
"This is a White House engaging in its own version of the media enemies list," Rove said on Fox News Sunday. "And it's unhelpful for the country and undignified for the president of the United States to so do."
Appearing on ABC's This Week, senior Obama adviser David Axelrod said Fox News shouldn't be treated as a news organization. "And the bigger thing is that other news organizations, like yours, ought not to treat them that way, and we're not going to treat them that way," he said.
Still, Axelrod said administration officials would appear on the channel. He shrugged off News Corp. chairman Rupert Murdoch's remark to shareholders last Friday that since the White House began criticizing Fox News commentators their ratings have risen.
"You know, I'm not concerned. Mr. Murdoch has a talent for making money, and I understand that their programming is geared toward making money," Axelrod said. "The only argument Anita was making is that they're not really a news station. … It's not just their commentators, but a lot of their news programming. It's really not news. It's pushing a point of view."
Emanuel appeared on CNN's State of the Union.