Now that Fox News's Tony Snow has been announced as the new White House press secretary, reporters are getting flustered at the fondness the administration has for Fox.
A report in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says reporters complained about the Fox fare on an April 27 Air Force One trip.
Washington Post reporter Jim VandeHei told current press secretary Scott McClellan that "requests – this is a serious question – to turn these TVs on to a station other than Fox" have been denied. He wanted to know if there was "a White House policy that all government TVs have to be tuned to Fox?”
McClellan said, "Never heard of any such thing," adding that his "TVs are on all four different channels at all times."
VandeHei responded that "they always seem to be tuned to Fox," and that it was a problem because the TVs are "paid for by taxpayer dollars."
Agence France Presse photographer Tim Sloan said he also complained, saying he "was the Fox victim" and was told, "the quote was, 'No,' when I asked for CNN. I was told, 'We don’t watch CNN here. You can only watch Fox.'" And who told him that? Sloan says it was the "magic people at the other end of the phone" in the press cabin.
McClellan said there was no such policy, and that the issue was "quite amusing, to tell you the truth."
“I mean there are a lot of people on this plane that do watch" CNN, and that it was the “first time you brought it to my attention. I’ll go see what we can do on it."
The press secretary announced the good news: "We just called up. They’re going to be changing it, at your all’s request, to the channel that you requested, which is CNN."
Whew, what a relief.
UPDATE 16:36. In an online chat, VandeHei and his colleague Tom Edsall insist the former wasn't asking explicitly for CNN:
Tom Edsall: Jim was not asking to watch CNN. I think that was McClellan's interjection to make it look like the media wanted to watch the 'liberal' channel. In fact, some of the folks on the plane wanted to watch ESPN.
Jim's e-mailed response:
"My issue, again, was with being forced to watch one network especially one most white house aides I talk to consider the most favorable in terms of its coverage of bush. I would raise the same issue if it appeared there was policy mandating CNN viewing."