Ex-NYT Editor Abramson: Obama Is Most Secretive Recent President

Wednesday, 16 Jul 2014 08:35 PM

By Greg Richter

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Former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson says it isn't hard to prove the Obama administration is the most secretive in recent history.

"I've never dealt with an administration where more officials —  some of whom are actually paid to be the spokesmen for various federal agencies —  demand everything be off the record," Abramson said Wednesday on Fox News Channel's "On the Record with Greta Van Susteren."

The most serious problem, Abramson said, is the chill that has been placed on journalists covering the current White House. The administration has launched eight criminal leak investigations against sources and whistleblowers since assuming office in 2009, more than double the number of all other administrations combined.

"These have really put a freeze and have interrupted the normal flow of journalists who want to cover Washington, and national security especially," Abramson said.

President Barack Obama campaigned in 2008 on a promise to be the most open and transparent White House in history. Republicans and members of the press have disputed that claim repeatedly.

Abramson acknowledged that the Obama White House has declassified some documents, putting it on the side of transparency.

"But I just think that these . . . criminal leak investigations outweigh all of the good that they have done," she said.

Everyone from CBS' Bob Schieffer to former Washington Post Executive Editor Len Downie have commented on how secretive this White House is, she noted.

Abramson said that before she was fired in May she called the Times' team of national security reporters daily. Almost all of the reporters said there has never been a more difficult atmosphere to work in, she said.

Abramson told Van Susteren that while Fox News and The New York Times "couldn't be more different," the work each does "actually serves a purpose of holding the government accountable to the people."

Abramson addressed the cases of Fox News' James Rosen, whose telephone records were seized by the Justice Department in a leak investigation, and the Times' James Risen, who could face jail for refusing to identify a source.

Journalists' work should not be criminalized, she said, because they are doing the work the country's founders wanted.

"The founders wanted a free press," she said. "That work actually serves a purpose of holding the government accountable to the people."

Abramson, the Times' first female executive editor, was fired in the spring over what publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. described as her "management style."

She declined to say she would have been treated differently if she were a man, as many critics have charged, but she did hint that what is seen as tough in a man might be seen as a negative in a woman.

She also said she still believes the Times is the nation's best newspaper. She spends more time reading it today than when she worked there, she told Van Susteren.

But she said the Times is not left-leaning, as many Republicans and Fox News viewers assert.

"The Times plays it straight. It just does," she said. And while many of Van Susteren's viewers are likely to tell her that statement is "baloney," Abramson said, "I'm telling you it's true."

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