Woodward: White House 'Code: You Better Watch Out'

Friday, 01 Mar 2013 07:53 AM

By Todd Beamon

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Newspaper editor and book author Bob Woodward continued his battle with President Barack Obama’s administration on Thursday, saying the White House is playing the “old trick” of attacking the messenger because he accurately reported the president’s reversal on the upcoming sequester.

“They got caught and — this is an old trick — make the conduct of the press the issue rather than their conduct,” Woodward told Fox News’ Sean Hannity Thursday night. “The biggest story in Washington is the town itself. What a craze it has become.”

Woodward, an associate editor for The Washington Post, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday that he received an email he interpreted as threatening from a top White House official — since identified as Gene Sperling, economic adviser to the president — regarding Obama’s actions on the upcoming sequester.

Urgent: Sequester Day – Obama to Blame? Vote in Urgent Poll

In the Feb. 22 email, Sperling said, in part: “I do truly believe that you should rethink your comment about saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim.”

Woodward told Blitzer on Wednesday: “It makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters that you are going to regret doing something that you believe in — and even if you don’t look at it that way [as a threat], you do look at it.”

But on Thursday, Woodward declined to describe Sperling’s email as a threat — “I just think that’s a mistake,” he told Hannity — but did say that the word “regret” was “coded” to mean “you better watch out,” which could be interpreted as a threat.

More broadly, Woodward, 70, said the Sperling email reflected an Obama White House that took being questioned seriously — and would hit back this way when being challenged, particularly by greener journalists.

“The problem is there are all kinds of reporters who are much less experienced, who are younger — and they’re going to get roughed up in this way,” he told Hannity. “I’m flooded with emails from people in the press saying, ‘This is exactly the way the White House works. They’re trying to control and they don’t want to be challenged or crossed.’”

He added that the press had grown more partisan and even less questioning of the president, whom he called “the father of the sequester.”

Urgent: Sequester Day – Obama to Blame? Vote in Urgent Poll

“We live in a hyper-partisan era — extreme partisanship. There are also a group of people — MSNBC — a lot of people who support Obama, who believe he can do no wrong,” Woodward said. “I believe in the First Amendment, and we need to bring this back to the center so we can have a reasoned discussion about it.”

The White House also has been very successful at controlling the press, Woodward said.

“The barriers have come up,” he told Hannity. “We know less about what’s going on.”

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