By David Zuirawik
The Baltimore Sun
6:12 PM EDT, May 23, 2013
The Obama White House has been trying to de-legitimize Fox News almost from the day it took office. Remember the media blitz of 2009 launched by then White House Communications Director Anita Dunn?
I stood with Fox on that one on principle and came away impressed with the almost tribal unity that Roger Ailes inspired in his troops in the face of White House pressure.
Ailes showed more of that Thursday with a memo sent to the Fox newsroom. Read it below, and try to tell me he's not right.
I held off on posting it until I could confirm the memo independently with two Fox staffers I trusted. It's legitimate, and it shows Ailes brilliantly and righteously claiming the moral high ground over an Obama administration that has once again demonstrated a truth I first wrote a month after Obama was sworn in: He and his administration have more contempt for the press and disregard for the First Amendment than any president since Richard Nixon. I wonder what Constitution it is exactly that Obama's such an expert on.
I got my head taken off for saying that back then. Funny, none of my politically naive and self-important colleagues are stepping up now to say it's not true.
And, by the way, Team Obama picked the wrong guy to treat like a criminal for doing his job as a journalist. James Rosen is one of the best journalists - broadcast or print - that I have ever covered or met.
Here's what Ailes told his troops today:
The recent news about the FBI’s seizure of the phone and email records of Fox News employees, including James Rosen, calls into question whether the federal government is meeting its constitutional obligation to preserve and protect a free press in the United States. We reject the government's efforts to criminalize the pursuit of investigative journalism and falsely characterize a Fox News reporter to a Federal judge as a "co-conspirator" in a crime. I know how concerned you are because so many of you have asked me: why should the government make me afraid to use a work phone or email account to gather news or even call a friend or family member? Well, they shouldn’t have done it. The administration’s attempt to intimidate Fox News and its employees will not succeed and their excuses will stand neither the test of law, the test of decency, nor the test of time. We will not allow a climate of press intimidation, unseen since the McCarthy era, to frighten any of us away from the truth.
I am proud of your tireless effort to report the news over the last 17 years. I stand with you, I support you and I thank you for your reporting with courageous optimism. Too many Americans fought and died to protect our unique American right of press freedom. We can’t and we won’t forget that. To be an American journalist is not only a great responsibility, but also a great honor. To be a Fox journalist is a high honor, not a high crime. Even this memo of support will cause some to demonize us and try to find irrelevant things to cause us to waver. We will not waver.
As Fox News employees, we sometimes are forced to stand alone, but even then when we know we are reporting what is true and what is right, we stand proud and fearless. Thank you for your hard work and all your efforts.
I have been holding my powder on this, because I didn't want to relive the misery I experienced in 2009 and 2011 when I dared to criticize the executive branch for not understanding and/or respecting the role the founders of this country tried to guarantee for the press in a democracy.
But I am going to rejoin the battle, because what the White House is doing is truly in a league with Nixon. The difference is that we now have a dumbed-down, wimped-out and suck-up press compared to the one Nixon faced. And what passes for media criticism is, in the main, even more spineless and pathetic.
Too many of the press folks, especially in Washington, are all too happy to kiss up to the White House rather than doing their jobs as Rosen has. Or, maybe they just don't have his dedication and courage.
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