The Obama administration "crossed a line" when it ordered the seizure of phone records from Associated Press journalists and the surveillance of Fox News' James Rosen, said outgoing Columbia Journalism School Dean Nick Lemann.
"I do think you cross a line when you start using legal means to essentially spy on reporters," Lemann said on Hugh Hewitt's radio show.
Lemann said the actions rivaled President Richard Nixon's hostility toward the media.
"I actually spent about a year in the Nixon archives," said Lemann, the Daily Caller reported
. "So I would say you have to get to a pretty high bar to get to Nixonian. … So I don’t think we’re quite to Nixonian, yet. But Nixon arguably wasn’t as bad with the press as this.”
Lemann said there was a sense of “outrage” among members of the media regarding the Obama administration's action.
“The reaction is pretty much outrage,” Lemann said. “You know, there was a time, a really long time ago, when administrations and journalists were really cozy, and it probably happened more in Democratic administrations such as the famous incident when President John F. Kennedy went from the last inaugural ball to Joseph Alsop’s house for a party."
Lemann said it's possible President Barack Obama had no knowledge of what was going on, because part of the culture of the White House is to protect the president, "and this administration does that to a T."
"I’m not defending what the IRS did, but I do find it plausible that the chief of staff would say you know what, the President would want this done, but he doesn’t need to know about it, let’s keep him clean on this," said Lemann.
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