New White House Press Secretary Tony Snow is starting off in a combative mode against the press by issuing detailed rebuttals to what he considers unfair coverage of Bush.
“The New York Times continues to ignore America’s economic progress,” blared the headline of an e-mail sent to reporters Wednesday by the White House press office.
Minutes earlier, another e-mail blasted CBS News, which has had an unusually rocky relationship with the White House since 2004, when CBS aired what turned out to be forged documents in a failed effort to question the president’s military service.
“CBS News misleadingly reports that only 8 million seniors have signed up for Medicare prescription drug coverage,” Wednesday’s missive said. “But 37 million seniors have coverage.”
Through its own PR machine, the blog PublicEye, CBS News responded by posting a statement from the reporter criticized in the White House press release, Jim Axelrod. He accuses Snow et al. of "clearly manipulating what I broadcast to fit their agenda."
Very simply, the White House is cutting and pasting to make a point, something they accuse their critics of doing constantly. I am clearly talking about the "final push" Mr. Bush is making on Medicare. The pictures we show at the time I say "8 million already signed up," clearly refer to an appearance the president is making to make sure people understand the deadline is fast approaching for the Medicare prescription drug benefit. I took information provided to me directly by the Medicare administrator's office about the number of people signed up so far in their push, and relayed it.
The White House takes issue with our reporting, "less than 40 percent of seniors have enrolled in the program".. stating that "90% of eligible beneficiaries" have coverage. However they don't reference the next sentence in my story:
Narration/Graphics [script]: “The latest CBS News-New York Times poll shows less than 40% of seniors have enrolled in the program – and nearly half say they don’t plan to, mostly because they have other prescription coverage.”
Nearly half say they don't plan to, mostly because they have other prescription coverage. That sounds like selective editing on the part of the White House to make their own political points. [...]
I am always open to criticism and believe we should be as transparent as possible in how we put together our reports, especially on such important issues as Medicare, but if the White House has a point to make, perhaps they should furnish the full and proper context for everything that is broadcast.