Adding to the Fox News v. White House feud today is a dust-up over an interview with pay czar Ken Feinberg. Turns out, it was a sort of miscommunication, but the White House adds that if they had left Fox out it would be a case of “Not that there’s anything wrong with that!”
The version Fox has pushed all day is that the network was excluded from an interview roundtable with Feinberg yesterday, and that bureau chiefs from ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN came to Fox’s defense.
TPMDC dug into it, and here’s what happened.
Feinberg did a pen and pad with reporters to brief them on cutting executive compensation. TV correspondents, as they do with everything, asked to get the comments on camera. Treasury officials agreed and made a list of the networks who asked (Fox was not among them).
But logistically, all of the cameras could not get set up in time or with ease for the Feinberg interview, so they opted for a round robin where the networks use one pool camera. Treasury called the White House pool crew and gave them the list of the networks who’d asked for the interview.
The network pool crew noticed Fox wasn’t on the list, was told that they hadn’t asked and the crew said they needed to be included. Treasury called the White House and asked top Obama adviser Anita Dunn. Dunn said yes and Fox’s Major Garrett was among the correspondents to interview Feinberg last night.
Simple as that, we’re told, and the networks don’t want to be seen as heroes for Fox.
TPMDC spoke with a network bureau chief this afternoon familiar with the situation who was surprised that Fox was portraying the news as networks coming to its rescue.
“If any member had been excluded it would have been the same thing, it has nothing to do with Fox or the White House or the substance of the issues,” the bureau chief said. “It’s all for one and one for all.”
A Treasury spokesperson added: “There was no plot to exclude Fox News, and they had the same interview that their competitors did. Much ado about absolutely nothing.”
But the White House isn’t backing down from its feud with Fox.
“This White House has demonstrated our willingness to exclude Fox News from newsmaking interviews, but yesterday we did not,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
An administration source wondered if the networks were annoyed Fox disclosed logistical negotiations since they are treated as off the record, but the bureau chief did not view this in the same light as discussions about, for example, the president going to Iraq.
As for the ongoing battle, Earnest said: “The president and other high ranking officials and people like Ken Feinberg have done interviews with Fox in the past and will do them in the future.”
We clipped video of Garrett discussing the issue.
Late update: Both Fox and the White House are sticking to their stories this weekend.