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Gazette Premium Content AP scandal: A complicated tale of unrequited love

The Gazette editorial Published: May 15, 2013

The latest government scandal involves a tragic tale of unrequited love. The national media must feel so rejected.

Former CBS newsman Bernard Goldberg, winner of 12 Emmy awards, documented the national media's bias in favor of President Barack Obama in his book "A Slobbering Love Affair." Other books and essays have also spelled it out, leaving little doubt that Obama receives preferential treatment by a majority of the country's journalists - with notable exceptions.

Anyone paying honest attention knows that key players in the media have a crush on our president that's hotter than Obama Girl's first video. The national press paid virtually no attention to Obama's close friendship with Bill Ayers - founder of the Weather Underground, a communist revolutionary group that bombed police stations, the U.S. Capitol and the Pentagon. Only new alternative media - most notably Fox News - gave much play to Obama's association with the radical Rev. Jeremiah Wright. When Obama spoke of 57 states, it was of far less media concern than a vice president misspelling "potato" or a veep candidate reading notes on her hand.

The Associated Press, the glue that binds thousands of news organizations, seldom uses "Obamacare" without apologizing for it with a phrase that suggests the term is an insult. Shortly after Obama's first election in November of 2008, The Associated Press even changed a long-standing rule so that Obama would be referenced with more formality and respect than any of his predecessors. Most journalists and media organizations comport with AP style, which has allowed use of "President Reagan," "President Clinton," etc., on first reference. Not for Obama. To abide by AP style, journalists use "President Barack Obama" on first reference. Fair enough. The president deserves respect and AP's style decision makes good sense.

So how has the Obama administration repaid the AP? It secretly obtained two months of phone records from AP reporters and editors on the East Coast. President Obama's Department of Justice seized records from more than 20 phone lines used by more than 100 reporters in 2012.

At least one major media figure, CNN lead political anchor Wolf Blitzer, sees a way to give the administration a pass.

"If you look at it from the other side, if there was a serious leak about an al-Qaida operation or whatever, they're trying to find out who may be leaking this information to the news media, do they occasionally have the right to secretly monitor our phone calls?" Blitzer asked.

He may be in scant company. Other journalists have lined up to demand the resignation or firing of Attorney General Eric Holder, who reports directly to President Obama.

"He should be gone. This moment. Not only is this constitutionally abhorrent, it is politically moronic," wrote Esquire's Charles Pierce.

Northeastern University journalism professor Dan Kennedy tweeted: "It is 8:42. The AP phone story broke at 7:50. Why is Eric Holder still attorney general."

The National Journal's Jill Lawrence predicts the AP investigation "could be the one that finally convinces him or Obama that it's time to go."

Though it's hard to imagine a journalist condoning the administration's probe of the press, Blitzer makes a valid point. The government might be justified in monitoring media conversations if, and only if, it can prove a clear nexus to national security and the saving of American lives. If the administration cannot explain how this investigation was an urgent matter of national security, there can be no excuse. The First Amendment protects the press because journalists, such as those at the AP, are supposed to keep government in check. We cannot have a free press that is monitored by the executive branch of government - an institution that should be monitored more closely by the free press.

We hope good emerges from this latest Washington scandal. Maybe the national media will start treating President Obama as if he's the most powerful man in the world, rather than an object of lopsided affection.

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