On CBS, Top NYT Editor Jill Abramson Shocks the Hosts, Agrees Obama's Worse Than Bush on Freedom of the Press

October 19th, 2013 4:11 PM

CBS This Morning brought on New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson on Friday with all the honors, with Charlie Rose lauding her for leading her paper to four Pulitzer Prizes this year as “the first female” in the top job, and asking her how she’d put an “Abramson imprint” on the paper. But the interesting part came later.

Abramson agreed with her reporter David Sanger that the Obama administration is worse than the much-criticized Bush administration when it comes to cracking down on reporters seeking interviews with government sources. It was almost funny, as three different CBS hosts asked the question, like they could not accept the answer:         

NORAH O’DONNELL: Let me ask you, though, about this administration's crackdown on leaks. David Sanger, of course, one of your best reporters in Washington said that this White House that “This is the most closed, control-freak administration I have ever covered.” Has it been that difficult?

JILL ABRAMSON: It has been really difficult.

GAYLE KING: Worse than the Bush administration?

ABRAMSON: All of our national security -- yeah, I was Washington bureau chief during the Bush administration, and that was not necessarily a completely open administration, to say the least. But the Obama administration has initiated seven criminal leak investigations.

CHARLIE ROSE: So you're saying the Obama administration is worse than the Bush administration?

ABRAMSON: The Oba--  it's demonstrable because these seven leak investigations are more than double, all of the criminal leak investigations in all administrations before the Obama administration. And it puts a chill on what is really a healthy discourse between journalists and their sources. And it`s our sources who mainly risk going to prison.

O’Donnell then pointed out that polls show that most Americans think Edward Snowden is a blank, but Abramson broke out the usual straw man, suggesting questioning the press means that Americans don’t want to know the “dimensions” of the war on terror:

ABRAMSON: I think it is very much in the public interest. And if a war on terrorism is being waged in the name of the people, I think would the people rather not know about the dimensions of it and what-- what`s involved? I just don`t think so. I think the work of great journalism is to inform the public and that`s what we`re doing. And people forget that the founders of our country were deftly afraid of too much centralized power. That`s why the First Amendment is first.

Dylan Byers of Politico found some contradiction in Abramson's remarks protesting the horse-race coverage of the government shutdown. Gayle King asked about her comment that politics shouldn't be covered like sports. He noted the Times expressly declared Obama a winner:

When asked about her previous complaint that politics was covered like a sport, Abramson said, "Its been constantly, day after day, broadly in the media: who won, who lost, and you know nobody won and unfortunately we know who lost," Abramson said.

On Friday, the Times published a story titled "Obama’s Edge Over G.O.P. Is Still Unclear After Victory in Standoff," which stated as its thesis: "By nearly all accounts, Mr. Obama emerged the winner of the showdown, having stared down attempts to undercut his health care program or force other concessions, but it is not clear what he actually won."

The article, by Peter Baker, later stated, "Although Mr. Obama declared 'there are no winners here,' the latest clash was resolved almost entirely on his terms and helped re-energize the president at a time when he was on the defensive over his handling of a chemical weapons attack in Syria. It also effectively overshadowed the rocky start of his health care program, which might have been even more damaging to him."

Abramson admitted it was a long-standing media trait: "That horse-racey, who’s-up-who’s-down has been a strain of political reports certainly as long as I’ve been in the trade, and certainly, Norah, while you’ve been doing that.” O'Donnell replied, "No doubt, and we’re guilty of it sometimes on television as well." They're all eager to proclaim Obama a winner. 

Video can be found here.