Bob Woodward Blasts White House for Creating a 'Sideshow' Over His Media Tour
The legendary journalist has twisted Washington into knots over the past week, starting with a story about the budget sequestration and then a battle over whether Obama officials were too harsh in email exchanges.
In the days before email and blogs, Bob Woodward was able to take down a White House with shadowy sources and well-placed silence. Now, battling the most tech-savvy presidential administration in history, he is finding that the media is subject to great swings, even against its own.
The legendary Washington Post reporter appeared on the Today Show on Friday to try to deflect some of the heat that he has drawn over the past week, the result of a scrum with the Obama administration over a report he wrote on Feb. 22. Woodward complained about receiving harsh emails from an aide to President Barack Obama and now says a public back-and-forth over the incident is the administration's fault.
"It’s been pointed out that this is a sideshow, which it is," Woodward told Matt Lauer. "This is the old trick in the book of making the press, or some confrontation with the press, the issue, rather than what the White House has done here."
To backtrack: Woodward began the squabble by publishing a column that claimed Obama had come up with the idea for the sequestration -- a series of potentially devastating automatic spending cuts that will be enacted Friday night -- and that he had "moved the goalposts" in his request for more tax increases in any negotiations to avoid its impact.
The story became a sensation, with liberals decrying his charges and conservatives embracing them, but the inside baseball behind the article soon trumped any policy discussion. Woodward claimed that the White House had told him he'd "regret" the story, and in an interview on CNN, he described a tense, angry phone call with a top Obama official, which was perceived as a threat.
After a day of media chatter about the mysterious back-and-forth between the two camps -- which included Woodward further calling the situation "the kind of madness I haven't seen in a long time," nodding to his own past -- the emails in question were leaked to Politico. As it turned out, the Obama official, economic adviser Gene Sperling, was largely apologetic in the exchange -- as was Woodward.
The knives came out for the reporter as his media colleagues snarked on Twitter and in columns about his perceived public exaggeration.
The New York Times' David Carr tweeted, "Threat Level: Chartreuse;" NPR's David Folkenflik wrote, "Woodward has 'splaining to do. Email from Sperling seems to be making case, not threat;" Slate's Dave Weigel tweeted, "Crazy idea: Instead of venerating famous people and assuming they're right, check the record;" and even conservative media members, including Byron York ("After reading Sperling-Woodward email, it's nowhere close to a threat. People who made big deal of this got played") and Jonah Goldberg ("Hezbollah is intimidating. Gene Sperling writing, 'I think you will regret staking out that claim' is not intimidating"), had harsh words for Woodward.
On Thursday, Woodward doubled down, appearing on Sean Hannity's Fox News show to say the White House did indeed send him "a coded message."
Meanwhile, the clock ticks down on the actual budget cuts.