Interesting article about the Bob Woodward stuff. Clearly he wasn't threatened. And every major reporter in Washington seems to agree.
Bob Woodward has suggested that the White House threatened him. Many of his colleagues in the press corps aren't buying it.
By the standards of this White House, a statement like the one senior White House official Gene Sperling wrote to Woodward last week -- "I think you will regret staking out that claim" -- is both mild and familiar, reporters who have dealt with the Obama administration say.
"It's not a big deal. You've been yelled at by people in the White House, I've been yelled at by people in the White House -- I'm sure this has happened to a thousand people in Washington," Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, who deals with the White House frequently, told POLITICO. "The whole thing seems like a tempest in a teapot."
"I get emails like this almost every hour, whether it's from the White House or Capitol Hill," said Chuck Todd, the NBC News political director and senior White House correspondent. "For better or worse, flacks get paid to push back."
Since POLITICO published the full email exchange between Woodward and Sperling, journalists from across the political spectrum have voiced skepticism over Woodward's decision to paint himself as the victim of White House pressure.
(Also on POLITICO: Exclusive: The Woodward, Sperling emails revealed)
"If this is it, I think many reporters — and I covered the White House for four years — received emails like this," Fox News host Bret Baier said on Andrea Tantaro's radio show today. "It was a cordial exchange for the most part, and Sperling is actually apologizing for a heated telephone conversation they had earlier in the day."
“I’m not saying the White House doesn’t pressure reporters all the time and put the heat on reporters covering the White House. I’ve heard many, many stories that they do," Baier continued. "But this particular incident and this particular email, I’m not sure that characterizing it as a threat -- I think Bob Woodward has a little bit of explaining to do about that characterization.”
Harold Maass, the online executive editor of The Week, likewise noted on Twitter that "the email that scared [Woodward] was sort of cordial." Outside the Beltway, Business Insider CEO Henry Blodget even wrote a post titled, "Oh, Please, The White House Didn't 'Threaten' Bob Woodward."
White House press secretary Jay Carney also weighed in on the exchange today, and said Sperling was being "incredibly respectful."
"You cannot read those emails and come away with the impression that Gene was threatening anybody," Carney said at Thursday's press briefing.
(WATCH: White House: Bob Woodward was not threatened)
The exchange between Sperling and Woodward started with a heated phone exchange after Woodward told Speling he was going to challenge President Obama’s account of how sequestration came about. But in his subsequent email to Woodward, Sperling begins and ends by apologizing for raising his voice.
In the middle, he writes: "I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus asking for revenues is moving the goal post. I know you may not believe this, but as a friend, I think you will regret staking out that claim."
"I agree there are more than one side to our first disagreement, but again think this latter issue is different," Sperling goes on to write. "Not out to argue and argue on this latter point. Just my sincere advice. Your call obviously."
In his interview with POLITICO, Woodward said Obama would probably caution his staff against telling any reporter "you’re going to regret challenging us.’"
But Goldberg called it "a traditional wave-off."
"When people say that sort of thing to me, I don't take it as a veiled threat. I don't take it as a pesron saying there will be consequences if you write that," he said. "I take it to mean, 'You shouldn't go down that road, because you'll be emarrassed when you find it it's wrong.' That, or they're trying to wave you off the story."
Todd took issue with Woodward's decision to make himself a central part of the story.
"I hope the lesson young journalists take away from this is: This is not about you," he told POLITICO. "The story you are covering is not about yourself, and the minute you make it about yourself, the minute personal feelings get involved, that's when mistakes are made, and that's when there can be an appearance of bias."
National Journal editorial director Ron Fournier, who wrote today that he has received several White House e-mails and telephone calls "filled with vulgarity [and] abusive language," said the exchange was evidence of an ongoing decline in civility between politicians and the press, but likewise called it a "snowflake" in the larger story.
"This is part of a bigger systematic problem: Go up to the Hill and see how long you go before a press secretary tells you to 'F-off.' I bet you don't make it to lunch. And if you're a press secretary, you may not make it to brunch before a reporter tells you to 'F-off,'" he told POLITICO. "I only see the Sperling and Woodward exchange as interesting and relevant in the bigger story, which is that we need to start treating each other with more respect."