Halperin’s MSNBC suspension latest example of White House press tampering

Jeff Poor Media Reporter
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The promptness with which MSNBC management reacted to Mark Halperin’s ill-advised remarks on Thursday’s “Morning Joe” was remarkable, considering it took the same outlet nearly two days to suspend “The Ed Show” host Ed Schultz after he called conservative talker Laura Ingraham “a slut” on his radio show.

Halperin, a Time magazine editor-at-large, made his remarks at 6:08 a.m. ET, and NBC Universal issued a press release announcing Halperin’s suspension at 9:44 a.m. ET, within an hour of the end of the “Morning Joe” broadcast. The reason for the quick reaction could be because White House Press Secretary Jay Carney called MSNBC management.

“The comment that was made was inappropriate,” Carney at the daily press briefing. “It would be inappropriate to say that about either president of either party.”

“On behalf of the White House, I expressed that sentiment to executives at the network,” he said.

But this isn’t the first time Obama or someone from the administration has responded directly to criticism from the media on behalf of the president. Obama and Robert Gibbs, Carney’s predecessor, have sparred with the media, with varying degrees of success.

  • Jan. 24, 2009 – Early in his term, Obama in an address to congressional Republicans went straight after conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh. “You can’t just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done,” as reported then-New York Post reporter Charlie Hurt, in comments to Republicans leaders at a White House meeting to discuss his stimulus proposal.

  • Feb. 20, 2009 and Sept. 4, 2009 – Robert Gibbs took on CNBC floor reporter Rick Santelli, who many consider the father of the Tea Party, for his criticism of Obama policy proposals to push the economy toward recovery.  “It’s important for people who rant on cable television to be responsible and understand what it is they are talking about,” Gibbs said during a Feb. 20 press briefing. “I feel assured Mr. Santelli doesn’t know what he’s talking about.”

  • March 3, 2009 – Gibbs went after another CNBC personality, “Mad Money” host Jim Cramer after on-air and in-print criticisms of Obama’s policies. “This is where I have to probably be careful,” Gibbs said in response. “Let me build on what the president said and that is, without understanding the basis for what Mr. Cramer said. I’m not entirely sure what he’s pointing to, to make some of the statements that he’s made and you can go back and look at any number of statements that he’s made in the past about the economy and wonder where some of the backup for those are too.”

  • Aug. 4, 2009 – White House Office of Health Reform Communications Director Linda Douglass took on Matt Drudge’s Drudge Report, calling one of his linked pieces “deceiving.” “[O]ne of my jobs is to keep track of all the disinformation that’s out there about health-insurance reform,” Douglass said in a video. “And there are a lot of very deceiving headlines out there right now, such as this one — take a look at this one. This one says, ‘Uncovered Video: Obama Explains How His Health Care Plan Will Eliminate PRIVATE Insurance.’”

  • Oct. 11, 2009 – Then-White House Communications Director Anita Dunn went after Fox News, calling the cable outlet “propaganda” and a “research arm of the Republican Party. Things escalated between the FNC and the White House to the point of where there was some talk of excluding Fox News from the White House pool coverage.

The Obama administration, however, isn’t the only administration to take on the media directly. In a more public showing, former President George W. Bush adviser Ed Gillespie penned a letter to NBC News in May 2008 over what the White House considered was unfair reporting from the outlet about elements of its Middle Eastern policy.