During his speech on Friday, former President Barack Obama claimed the high road against President Donald Trump when it comes to attacking the press. As usual, what Obama said and what he actually did don’t line up.
“It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say that we don’t threaten the freedom of the press because they say things or publish stories we don’t like,” Obama said. “I complained plenty about Fox News, but you never heard me threaten to shut them down or call them enemies of the people.”
There is one true statement in that quote: We never heard Obama call Fox the enemy of the people or threaten to shut them down. But he absolutely did that through his actions. And not just Fox.
As the Obama administration investigated leaks (notice how the media now hates when Trump rants about leaks), it obtained the records of more than 20 phone lines connected to the Associate Press over a two-month period back in 2013. It also seized records from five phone lines connected to Fox News.
When the Obama Justice Department (DOJ) investigated leaks about North Korea, it completely spied on Fox News’ Washington correspondent, James Rosen. The DOJ accessed Rosen’s security badge records to track his time at the State Department and traced his phone calls. They even snooped on his personal e-mails after obtaining a dubious search warrant. The administration referred to Rosen as a possible “criminal co-conspirator” in the leak.
According to Yahoo, an FBI agent accused Rosen of breaking the law, even though his own affidavit described behavior that “falls well inside the bounds of traditional news reporting.”
Even before these investigations, Obama’s White House communications director, Anita Dunn, said the administration would treat Fox News “the way we would treat an opponent.”
The Obama administration also renewed a Bush-era subpoena against James Risen of the New York Times. In 2011, federal investigators spied on Risen’s credit reports, personal bank records, and tracked his phone.
And this doesn’t even get into all the claims by former CBS reporter Sharyl Attkisson that the Obama administration spied on her for daring to report information they didn’t like.
In contrast, Trump has said some mean things about the press (which despite media hysterics has not actually led to attacks on members of the press by Trump supporters), barred a CNN reporter from an event at the Rose Garden (Obama also barred or attempted to bar Fox News from multiple events), and seized the records of New York Times reporter Ali Watkins in connection with a leak investigation (just as Obama seized records).
The Trump administration’s actions against the press are just as bad as when Obama did the same thing, but we can’t pretend that Obama somehow respected the press while his administration actively targeted them.