Tony Snow: Don’t Believe Your Opposition’s Blogs

White House Press Secretary Tony Snow, NBC’s David Gregory, Newsweek’s Richard Wolffe, and others gathered on Tuesday at the National Press Club to discuss a variety of issues including media reporting of political events (video available here).

As the conversation ensued, Gregory made the following observations:

Because it- it's the Internet, and the blogs, that have really used this White House press conference to somehow support positions out in America- political views- and they- and they- uh- they will clip, and digitize portions of these briefings to fit into their particular argument and I think people try to divine motives of the questioners and- and certainly draw conclusions about, uh, the answers, or- or non-answers, uh, based on their, their, their own political views.

Snow then gave his own rather negative impression of blogs:

I'll occasionally punch it up and it's amazing, you get this wonderful imaginative hateful stuff that comes flying out, and, I think one of the, the, the, maybe one of the, the most important takeaways is, it's the classic old line "not only should you not believe your own press you probably shouldn't believe your opposition blogs either."

Seems like sound advice. What follows is a partial transcript courtesy of Crooks and Liars.

David Gregory: To assertively lay out the President's case in a way that perhaps hadn't been done before you were brought on. So the President recognized that "I need a forceful advocate who can be seen on television and who can, who can seize that platform." At the same time there's many of you watching. If you're watching on C-Span or, or you're here tonight. You wanna watch not only the give and take but the topics to be addressed and see the only representative of the White House on a daily basis, if the President does not speak, say what he wants to say but also be responsive to members of the press. And whether or not you think we accurately are, uh or, are justly represent the views of the American people that's, that's very much something that's up for debate. But it's a useful, it is a useful exercise. There's also a downside to it. If people think, you know, people are playing to the cameras, I can't control what Tony does. But, um (laughter) but I will just say this: if you-if you-if you think that, that, um, you know, people (laughs) um-

Tony Snow: (laughing) Damn right (unintelligible)

David Gregory: No, but look, I mean I-I-I hope that some of my colleagues here will-will vouch for this but I mean-

Audience Member: I agree.

David Gregory: Some of these exchanges-

Audience Member: I agree.

David Gregory: I haven't made the point yet. (laughter) Uh, that uh, that- no but some-

Audience Member: Calm down…

David Gregory: some of the exchanges can be just as heated. I mean you- you described heated- going back to the Ford administration. So whether it's a gaggle, whether it's a briefing, a lot of, I think, the, the questioning is the same. That's my view, I can speak from my own experiences and having tense exchanges off camera and off camera um, I've had them both. So, I think that um, I think there's utility and I also think there is a downside and I alluded to this a moment ago. I think that politics and political coverage has become so polarized in this country and in part because everybody- McCurry worried about cable news, with the cameras- that was- that seems like a hundred years ago. Because it- it's the Internet, and the blogs, that have really used this White House press conference to somehow support positions out in America- political views- and they- and they- uh- they will clip, and digitize portions of these briefings to fit into their particular argument and I think people try to divine motives of the questioners and- and certainly draw conclusions about, uh, the answers, or- or non-answers, uh, based on their, their, their own political views.

Tony Snow: You know you raise uh, I'm glad you raised the blog issue, because, uh, I think they'll be kind of a generational divide, uh, do either of you guys look at blogs much?

Panel Member: I write a few, but I don't look at them much.

(laughter)

Tony Snow: And my guess is this side of the room is- looks more at blogs. Um, you look at blogs, right?

Panel Member: I look at blogs. I'm all for blogs, I'm all for the First Amendment, I think people oughta be empowered to write what they want.

Tony Snow: Yeah. Well, I think what's happened is we, we've got this new Democratic age of the media but you're right, it actually- I'll- I'll occasionally punch it up and it's amazing, you get this wonderful imaginative hateful stuff that comes flying out, and, I think one of the, the, the, maybe one of the, the most important takeaways is, it's the classic old line "not only should you not believe your own press you probably shouldn't believe your opposition blogs either". What do you think, Richard?

Richard Wolffe: Yeah, uh, well, uh yeah, I totally agree. I, I, uh- David hit on a good point here that a lot of the blogs are trying to divine motive and bias. There seems to be this sort of- the witch hunt that's out there. A lot of the blogs are, are, are unduly devoted to media criticism which is itself kind of interesting given all the things you could comment on. Uh, but look, as you can tell from my accent, I, I'm not actually from here, and, uh-(laughter) from the Bronx, actually. (Laughter) But, uh, but in my home country, uh, what used to be my home country, you don't have to, uh, try and guess what someone's political bias is in the press, cause the press is divided up neatly according to partisan views. And, it, uh, in my humble view, I think the press here does a fantastic job of adhering to journalistic standards in covering politics in general. And the, um, the interesting thing in, in looking at the political coverage as people try to guess what we do is, is that they want us to play a role that really isn't our role. Our- our role is to ask questions and get information. But it- the press briefing isn't Prime Minister's question time. It's not a chance for the opposition to take on the government and grill them to a point where they hand- throw their hands up and surrender. Now, obviously there's a contentious spirit there- we're trying to get information, but, it's not a political exercise, it's a journalistic exercise, and I think often the blogs are looking for us to be political advocates, more than journalistic ones.

Tony Snow: Another sign of the times, my Blackberry just went off-

Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard
Noel Sheppard, Associate Editor of NewsBusters, passed away in March of 2014.