Trump insults the media regularly, calling them out on their biased and often unhinged attacks on him and his administration. But the real enemy of the press was not this president, but the previous one.
A newly released government report shows the Obama administration used the power of the federal government to bully and silence the few reporters who dared challenge his spin on events.
In 2013, Leonard Downie called Obama’s efforts to control information “the most aggressive I’ve seen since the Nixon administration, when I was one of the editors involved in The Washington Post’s investigation of Watergate.”
The Obama administration also spent seven years trying to force New York Times reporter James Risen to reveal his sources. Risen, writing in The New York Times in 2016, noted bitterly how “Over the past eight years, the administration has prosecuted nine cases involving whistle-blowers and leakers, compared with only three by all previous administrations combined. It has repeatedly used the Espionage Act, a relic of World War I-era red-baiting, not to prosecute spies but to go after government officials who talked to journalists.”
The Obama administration repeatedly barred Fox reporters from events. At one point, it named Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “co-conspirator” in a leak case being pursued under the Espionage Act.
In 2013, the Obama Justice Department issued sweeping subpoenas for the phone records of The Associated Press and several of its reporters and editors as part of a leak investigation. The records collected disclosed information about AP’s activities and operations that the government had no conceivable right to know.
When not harassing reporters, Obama officials refused to cooperate with them, racking up the worse record for fulfilling FOIA of any previous administration. Obama even routinely banned news photographers from official events so he could keep an iron grip on his image. Michelle Obama banned the press from her taxpayer-paid China visit.
Most of these attacks went unnoticed. Whenever Obama spoke to the press, he pretended to be their champions. And the press, in turn, acted like teenagers in love rather than professionals threatened by a paranoid control freak.
In fact, when reporters tried to complain about Obama’s treatment, the reporters themselves were often attacked by fellow reporters who, The Baltimore Sun’s David Zurawik wrote in 2014, “couldn’t believe the object of their political affection could have such contempt for them.”