According to an Associated Press report, in President Obama’s final year in office, his administration — which promised to be the most transparent in history — spent $36.2 million on legal costs directly linked with denying the press and other organizations and individuals their Freedom of Information Act requests.
“The government acknowledged when challenged that it had been wrong to initially refuse to turn over all or parts of records in more than one-third of such cases, the highest rate in at least six years,” the AP reported.
It was just the latest report that revealed Mr. Obama’s adversarial view on journalism, and the secretive nature of his administration.
Along with suppressing or denying FOIA requests, Mr. Obama prosecuted more whistleblowers and journalists under the Espionage Act than any other president in U.S. history. Over his eight years in office, his administration prosecuted nine cases, compared with only three by all previous presidents combined.
Mr. Obama’s Justice Department of Justice named Fox News reporter James Rosen an actual enemy of the state, labeling him “an aider, abettor and/or co-conspirator,” for reporting news on North Korea obtained from a State Department source.
The Obama administration also spent seven years in court trying to force New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal his sources, taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court. Not to mention subpoenaing The Associated Press’s call logs to track down unnamed leaks.
Yet, the press is fixated on Mr. Trump — and how his administration threatens the forth estate to the very core.
When White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer excluded some reporters from an informal press gaggle last month, the mainstream media’s reaction was hysterical — much like it was throughout the general election, and continues to be within his first few months in office.
Dean Baquet, the executive editor of the New York Times wrote of the snub: “Nothing like this has ever happened at the White House in our long history of covering multiple administrations of different parties.”
Except it had. As our own columnist Charlie Hurt can attest, he was kicked off Mr. Obama’s campaign plane in 2008 after he wrote an unflattering piece on the president, and The Washington Times was routinely kept out of Mr. Obama’s White House gaggles.
Still, every week, it seems CNN and MSNBC among others, are contemplating Mr. Trump’s attacks on the press, and how it’s like nothing they’ve ever seen before. The word “unprecedented” gets batted around a lot — really, just abused.
So far, Mr. Trump’s administration has produced nothing but words — heated words aimed at the press for what it perceives as unfair attacks and stories. There’s concern among the administration that the media is only chasing negative angles and is not covering its successes.
And they have a point.
According to a study out of Harvard’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Policy, during the general election, Mr. Trump’s coverage was negative from the start and never came close to entering positive territory. In the worst weeks, the press’s coverage ran more than 10-to-1 negative over positive.
And there’s no evidence to suggest the media has changed its tone since he’s been elected. At times, it feels as though they’ve only become more hysterical.
Actions, after all, should matter more than words.
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