Ok, maybe the White House Press Secretary had never been as bold (or arrogant) as Scott McClellan was when he publicly as the NYT put it ,
pressed Newsweek on Tuesday to go beyond a retraction and"help repair the damage" to the image of the United States in the Muslim world after the magazine mistakenly reported that a Pentagon investigation had found that interrogators at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, tried to flush a Koran down a toilet.
But White Houses going back to the Kennedy administration have been managing the news and directing reporters how to write their stories. Kennedy famously told the NYT not to report on the Bay of Pigs disaster and repeatedly tried to shape the coverage provided by his friend Ben Bradley and the Alsop columnists.
What? The American media taking its cues from the American president? Yes, Virginia, it has happened. And for the media to pretend to be shocked--shocked!--that it has happened again is plain balderdash.
During the 1960 campaign candidate Kennedy's TV media advisor, J. Leonard Reinsch, told the director of the first Kennedy-Nixon debate to broadcast a reaction shot of Nixon sweating. This was as good as telling the NYT to publish a smear story against Nixon on the front page--and was probably more effective.
A few years later, the Kennedy State Department told NBC not to run a documentary about the digging of a tunnel underneath the Berlin Wall out of fear it would increase Cold War tension.
Richard Nixon, impressed with Kennedy's management of the news, tried repeatedly to influence the way the media covered stories. Usually, he failed--but it wasn't for lack of trying. Egged on by Henry Kissinger, Nixon even instituted court proceedings to stop the NYT from publishing the Pentagon Papers. John Mitchell, the atorney general, once flatly threatened the Washington Post, warning reporter Carl Bernstein that"Katie Graham’s gonna get her tit caught in a big fat wringer" if she published a piece critical of the Nixon campaign. And then there was the strange incident in which Kissinger tried to stop Time Magazine from naming him Man of the Year -- Kissinger feared that a magazine cover story in the prestigeous Timewould alienate Nixon, who craved the positive media attention Kissinger was receiving.
Going back even further ... FDR's aides famously told the press not to report on the difficulty he had walking (and even forbade the taking of pictures in his wheelchair)?
So what's really new here?