On CNN, Howard Kurtz Disses Bret Baier's Fox Interview with Obama as 'Interrupt-a-Thon'

When interviewing White House press secretary Robert Gibbs on Sunday's edition of Reliable Sources on CNN, host Howard Kurtz suggested Bret Baier's interview with President Obama was an "interrupt-a-thon," as if the proper role of a journalist is to allow 90 seconds for each answer. It sounded like a CNN host attacking the other team, or simply like a softball question:

KURTZ: Let me ask you about Fox. The White House campaign against Fox News, did that end when Fox's Bret Baier was invited into the Oval Office, who a lot of people have called the interrupt-a-thon interview?

GIBBS: Well, I'll let Fox determine whether or not they got out of that interview what they wanted to get out of it based on the fact that -- I mean, I think the uniqueness of having an interview with the president is getting a chance to sit as close as we are and getting that insight. I mean, he could -- this was the last interview the president did before something as historic as health care passed.

KURTZ: Right.

GIBBS: I don't think historians will look back on that interview and think, "Boy, we really got a sense of what the president was thinking right before such a historic achievement."

When asked if the White House has "moved on" from its campaign against Fox, Gibbs seemed upset that Fox News doesn't seem to understand just how Reaganesque Barack Obama seems when discussing nuclear arms reduction:

GIBBS: Well, look, Howard, I will say this -- that we are -- as you said, we live in a town in which you have to play the game. And we're happy to put guests on. We're happy to do interviews.

Obviously, I take questions from their correspondent each and every day in the briefing. I don't think many people have to watch Fox to understand the political slant that they have.

KURTZ: In the news coverage as well as the opinion shows?

GIBBS: Well, here's a good example. The president signed the START Treaty last week. And there was a lot of debate about whether us reducing our nuclear warheads was making this country less safe. And then the anchor disappeared, and for several seconds there was a 1960s video footage of a nuclear test and a mushroom cloud.

Now what you didn't see was -- you didn't see in any of that, where the last time we are familiar with seeing pictures of START treaties being signed, are that of Ronald Reagan, or when the president makes a pledge to end nuclear weapons on our planet --

KURTZ: Reagan did the same thing.

GIBBS: -- it mimics what -- or what Reagan. So I think in that case, you are -- and you've mentioned their increase in cable numbers. They're feeding an audience that they know wants to see and hear a certain side of that argument.

Kurtz also asked about talk radio, and whether Obama's bashing of radio hosts only elevates them:

KURTZ: And speaking of detractors of this administration, Barack Obama, on several occasions, has called out by name Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity. Doesn't he elevate their stature when he does that?

GIBBS: Well, again, their stature is largely elevated by the people that listen. Again, I think it's one of those things where if you're not -- you know, you have in all -- I think in a lot of different phases of the media people can make statements that aren't checked, right? The media, in some cases, covers the food fight, but doesn't necessarily check who started it and whether they started it for a reason that was legitimate or not.

KURTZ: So you want more fact-checking, and more accountability?

GIBBS: Well, I think you -- I think instead of covering the food fight, covering whether or not what people say is in fact right or wrong.
KURTZ: On that point I --

GIBBS: And I think --

KURTZ: On that point I agree with you.

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis