Assessing McClellan: Will Media Leave Out Liberal, Partisan Hostility in Briefing Room?

Howard Kurtz's profile of departing White House press secretary Scott McClellan reflects the conventional wisdom: that he could be painful to watch. He often had that "60 Minutes" victim look of badly hidden panic in his eyes. (When he took the job, I worried "matching Ari's lullaby of dullness is not going to be easy.") But Kurtz's piece suggested one problem with media assessments of McClellan's job: whatever the opinion of his performance, it ought to  be acknowledged that the White House press corps is liberal, Democratic, and tougher for Republican press secretaries than for Democratic ones. Kurtz's story gets odd when old Clinton spokesman Joe Lockhart gets going:

Joe Lockhart, who was press secretary during Bill Clinton's impeachment, said the Bush administration bears much of the blame for the hostile tone. He said reporters can be friendly or antagonistic, depending on how a president is faring.

"From the president and vice president on down, the view is that cooperating with the press is not in the administration's interest, and it makes Scott's job harder, as it made Ari's job harder," Lockhart said.

The idea that White House reporters for the networks and the news magazines and the Washington Post and the New York Times are friendly depending on whether the press secretary is open and friendly (never mind the D or the R) is beyond odd. (For a sample of Clinton's White House press corps, see here.)

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