A longtime Washington reporter and White House correspondent has accused the current administration of being “the most hostile” to journalists in the history of the United States.
Former CNN correspondent Bob Franken was sitting down over the weekend with reporters at MSNBC when he was asked to weigh in on the current standoff between the White House and some of the biggest names in news when he made headline-grabbing remarks about this administration’s treatment of the press.
Allegations have been made lately by the likes of the Associated Press, Reuters and others that the White House has been excluding independent photographers from official functions with increasing regularity as of late, instead relying on a lone administration staffer to shoot images of US President Barack Obama for selected distribution among the press. In a recent letter sent by editors at the AP, Reuters, CNN, ABC, NBC and others, the organizations wrote “officials in this administration are blocking the public from having an independent view of important functions of the Executive Branch of government,” and McClatchy newspapers and USA Today both went as far as to vow to boycott official images provided by the White House in protest.
On Saturday, however, perhaps the harshest critique yet of this administration’s policy with regards to the press surfaced, courtesy of Franken, a longtime White House reporter who has covered the Washington beat since the 1980s.
“Well, let's use the ‘P’ word here,” Franken told MNBC Live host TJ Holmes. “This is propaganda when it comes from the White House: government covering the government. “
“It’s not what you’re supposed to do in the United States of America,” added Franken, “But we have an administration, every president gets to the point where he dislikes the press. It’s that simple. And every administration tries to manipulate the press. But this is the most hostile to the media that has been in United States history.”
When asked by Holmes to elaborate further, Franken specifically called out the Obama White House for the recent issues they’ve had with regards to official photography. According to Franken, the administration’s actions equate exactly to “shutting out the press,” an argument hinted at in the recent letter signed by the likes of the AP and others. Shortly after, though, Franken called into question other media snafus spawned by this administration in order to qualify the Obama presidency as the most hostile ever to journalists.
“But the reason I say most hostile,” continued Franken, “is because of the Justice Department moves that they've made against the press. Obviously they have a contempt for the journalistic process. Those of us who are in journalism, of course, believe that it is vital if you're going to have informed electorate as opposed to one that’s been propagandized.”
Indeed, the latest episode pitting the White House against the nation’s media establishment is not the only one to scar the administration, not even in the last year. In May it was revealed that the Department of Justice was conducting surveillance targeting AP journalists, and soon after it was made public that Fox News reporter James Rosen was being monitored as well.
For 2013, Reporters Without Borders ranked the US as number 32 on the list of countries with the most press freedoms, and in October the Center to Protect Journalists published a 29-page scathing report scolding the Obama administration for its harsh treatment of the press, as well as the whistleblowers who have exposed newsworthy evidence only to be in turn prosecuted for espionage.
Franken, the cousin of Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota), was one of the main Washington correspondents at CNN for years before leaving during the second George W. Bush administration.