The White House is charging The New York Times committed “gross negligence” in a Sunday story that laid the blame for the mortgage crisis primarily on the Bush administration.
The Times’ 5,000 word report, titled “White House Philosophy Stoked Mortgage Bonfire,” suggested the Bush administration’s free-market ideology led it to look the other way when it became apparent that federally regulated lenders Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were under regulated.
The article also states President Bush foresaw the economic dangers of the subprime mortgage disaster looming, but failed to act decisively. The article barely mentioned the responsibility of Congress, however, which has primary responsibility for overseeing so-called “government sponsored enterprises.”
The Bush administration press office isn’t alone in its criticism. Fortune Magazine Washington Bureau Chief Nina Easton told Fox News she was “flabbergasted” when she read the story.
“I mean, there are three sections to blame for this crisis we're in,” Easton said. “You can blame Alan Greenspan and the Federal Reserve, easy money supply. You can blame this whole risky slice, dice and pass mortgage up the food chain so no one has responsibility for it, and, frankly, regulators should have been looking at that. You can blame that. And you can blame affordable housing policies.
“You cannot write a story about affordable housing policies and blame it on George Bush instead of the Democrats. I mean, it's just, it's outrageous," she said.
White House spokesperson Dana Perino released a statement Sunday that charged the Times had selectively cherry-picked quotes to support its theme, while overlooking the extensive record of Bush warnings that Fannie and Freddie were teetering out of control.
The Times article also appeared to overlook a prime-time address by the president on the topic.
"That the New York Times ignored such an important economic speech to the American people and the complex causes of the crises is gross negligence,” Perino said.
Joining in the criticism is Clay Water, director of the Media Research Center’s Times Watch project.
“Even in Bush’s last days, The New York Times is still taking shots at his administration,” Waters tells Newsmax.
“This article failed to mention any Democratic responsibility in the mortgage crisis. Conspicuously absent from that brief blame list is Congress, and specifically Congress’s most ardent defenders of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, Democrat Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd,” Water says.
He adds: “Also absent is the Clinton administration. In 1999, the Times reported on Clinton’s administration pressuring the two big lending giants to ease restrictions. The Times went on to predict severe repercussions during an economic downturn if restrictions were loosened.
Times Executive Editor Bill Keller defended the article, however.
In a statement quoted by Politico.com, Keller said: "The piece that has driven the White House spokesmen to such a show of apoplexy was based on on-the-record interviews with dozens of current and former officials of the current administration.”
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