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Singled Out by the White House

(AP Photo/Ron Edmonds)
A few weeks back, Public Eye sat down with CBS White House correspondent Jim Axelrod in the wake of his testy back-and-forth with White House Press Secretary Tony Snow. Snow had implied that Axelrod was a "defeatist" during a press briefing.

I thought it was tough enough on a journalist to defend oneself from an accusation from the White House's spokesman. But you know what's tougher? Getting singled out in print.

Late yesterday afternoon, the White House put out an entire press release calling out one reporter's coverage of the White House stance on border patrol. The press release, one of their "SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT" series (all caps was their idea), began with the following passage:

The Washington Times inaccurately claims National Guard troops assigned to the U.S.-Mexico Border under Operation Jump Start are "being pulled off the line a year earlier than promised." (Jerry Seper, "Guard Troops Pulled Back From Border," The Washington Times, 8/9/07)
Immediately after seeing the release, I gave a call to the man behind the article, Jerry Seper. I asked him what he thought of the critique, if he stood by his article, and what it was like to get singled out for criticism by the White House. His e-mailed response?

"I understand President Bush said the number on National Guard troops would draw down to 3,000 after a year, but he also has said the troops were on the line to supplement the Border Patrol until it was able to recruit, hire, train and deploy 6,000 new agents. It has not done so. I certainly accept their comments and will include them in a [follow-up] story. But I did call the White House on Wednesday for a comment prior to the story's publication and it chose not to return the call. That's their problem. How does it feel to be called out by the White House? It tells me they are reading the newspaper."

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