Conservative talk radio host Hugh Hewitt featured two liberal journalists on his nightly program this week, and both joined the chorus of media outrage at the Obama administration over the Justice Department’s recent AP probe. Bloomberg View’s Jonathan Alter called Eric Holder’s explanation of the probe “pathetic” and suggested that President Obama should “apologize to journalists” over the scandal, while Michael Shear of the New York Times was frosted by the “absolutely chilling” way that the Obama/Holder DOJ has treated journalists like criminals.
Just last week, Alter fretted over the administration’s scandals with Chris Matthews on Hardball, claiming that White House staffers had “an unhealthy love” for Obama. On Wednesday, Alter blasted the administration for their “especially aggressive” attitude towards reporters, calling the Justice Department’s recent actions “disturbing."
I don’t like it one bit. I just, this and the AP story disturb me, and I think my reaction is not just as a result of being a journalist. I don’t think it’s the way to operate in a democratic society.
I mean, I don’t think it’s an impeachable offense. You know, I don’t think it’s going to lead to the biggest scandal since Watergate. But I do think it was the wrong way to go about things, and it’s disturbing.
Alter later added that he would “like to see” Obama apologize to reporters on behalf of the Justice Department.
Well, you know, I would actually like to see him apologize to journalists who have had their work and their privacy, and their…you know, compromised.
Indeed, it’s shocking to hear demands for an apology from someone that, up until now, has been a steadfast Obama apologist. But Alter wasn’t the only journalist on Hewitt’s show condemning actions of the Obama/Holder Justice Department. The New York Times’s Michael Shear offered a similar condemnation.
I mean, look, as a reporter, I think it’s absolutely chilling. And I think we all operate in this city, especially, under the assumption that there are, there are certain freedoms that are guaranteed to us that aren’t guaranteed in, say, other countries, and that we, and part of that is an understanding of the recognition of the kinds of things that we in the press do, and the kinds of environments that we operate in.
Shear also seemed to agree with Hewitt’s characterization of Holder’s ‘recusal’ as a “convenient excuse,” claiming that journalists had to try and “cut through convenient excuses.” Perhaps for the first time in Obama’s presidency, the liberal media might not let the president’s excuses (and Holder’s, for that matter) slip by.
See the relevant transcripts below [transcripts provided by Hewitt’s website]:
The Hugh Hewitt Show
HUGH HEWITT: What is your reaction to the snooping of James Rosen of the Fox News Channel?
JONATHAN ALTER: I don’t like it one bit. I just, this and the AP story disturb me, and I think my reaction is not just as a result of being a journalist. I don’t think it’s the way to operate in a democratic society.
HEWITT: Ryan Lizza has a post over at the New Yorker with the number and extent of the snooping, and the phone records seized. Have you had a chance to read that, yet?
ALTER: I have not, yet, no.
HEWITT: And it’s also been revealed, stunningly, that they tapped parents. They went after his, I don’t want to say tapped, that’s imperfect. They went after his parents’ phone records, Jonathan Alter. So what is the President’s charge at this point from someone who admires him? What do you want to see him do?
ALTER: Well, you know, I would actually like to see him apologize to journalists who have had their work and their privacy, and their…you know, compromised. You know, the administration says well, we’re going after the leakers, and in order to get them, and get those who are jeopardizing our national security, we have to go after the reporters, too. And this is what all administrations say when it comes to national security. But this administration has been especially aggressive on it, and I know they don’t want to intervene in any of these cases, and I know that a lot of people don’t think that the President should ever apologize for anything. That was Mitt Romney’s view. But I just take a different view. I think if you cross certain lines the way this has, you should own up to it and say it wasn’t the right thing to do. I mean, I don’t think it’s an impeachable offense. You know, I don’t think it’s going to lead to the biggest scandal since Watergate. But I do think it was the wrong way to go about things, and it’s disturbing.
HEWITT: Now Jonathan, we have got the AP story, and we have the Rosen story. There is a, Sharyl Attkisson today theorizing her computer has been vandalized. Should the Department of Justice make a full and complete account of all reporters who have been surveilled to date by this administration?
ALTER: I think that would be a good start.
HEWITT: And what did you make of Attorney General Holder’s ‘I’m recused, but it’s not in writing, and I can’t remember when it happened?’
ALTER: I thought, and I wrote, that his appearance last week was, in front of the press, was, I think I used the word pathetic. And one of the things that I didn’t like about it especially was that he said that every avenue had been exhausted before the AP reporters were snooped on. But people who know the Justice Department and know their rules, which are quite narrow, suggest that there were a number of other things that could have been and should have been done first. Now it should be said that there is no indication that any of that broke the law. But it did, because the Patriot Act and other laws give the Justice Department wide discretion to do this kind of thing. But it did, according to some accounts of lawyers with familiarity with the Justice Department, it did violate the Justice Department’s own rules. And so when Eric Holder said that he didn’t, that all other avenues had been exhausted, that was not accurate.
The Hugh Hewitt Show
HUGH HEWITT: Yeah, I think what I’m going to say on Hannity tonight is I think that both the secretary of state and the president went into deniability mode, that they both wanted nothing to do with what was obviously a meltdown and a fiasco. I can’t even believe she didn’t call back Mr. Hicks that night, but we’ll find out more. Let me turn to the second big story of the day, and it’s not the IRS. It’s James Rosen.
MICHAEL SHEAR: Right.
HEWITT: Now Rosen’s been a guest on this program before. I find this flabbergasting, astonishing, actually, Michael Shear. And I think if [President George] W. [Bush] had done something like this, we would, we’d have motions for impeachment on the House floor from Democrats. What do you make of this story?
SHEAR: I mean, look, as a reporter, I think it’s absolutely chilling. And I think we all operate in this city, especially, under the assumption that there are, there are certain freedoms that are guaranteed to us that aren’t guaranteed in, say, other countries, and that we, and part of that is an understanding of the recognition of the kinds of things that we in the press do, and the kinds of environments that we operate in. And what was described in that incident with Mr. Rosen is not at all what we are used, and I can just speak for myself personally, having done this for 25 years, I mean, I don’t ever think that that’s the kind of, you know, that my personal email is going to be searched, and that other things are going to be monitored. I mean, it’s just not the kind of environment that we expect to be operating in, and it’s really chilling.
HEWITT: True enough. True enough, and I’ve got that screen as well, and especially when you speak in public. Everything is always recorded. Let me ask you about this. Eric Holder said he was recused from the decision on the AP. If he says he was recused from the decision on James Rosen, but didn’t write it down, are you going to find that to be awfully convenient?
SHEAR: You know, one of the things we do all the time is try to cut through convenient excuses. Now I don’t know, I’m not, I don’t cover the Justice Department full time. I cover the White House. But clearly, one of the things that has been frustrating to the press over the last few days, and specifically about the AP story, is that, you know, is this sense that, you know, as we’re pressing for answers, what we’re coming up against is well, that’s not, I’m not the one you have to ask, ask somebody else. And that’s been, you know, you go to the White House, and they say talk to Justice, you go to Justice, they say Holder can’t talk. And so I think that is one of the frustrating things for reporters trying to get to the bottom of these stories, is the kind of, that picture of the guy with the arms twisted, and both hands pointing in opposite directions, not being…