The Royal Treatment

Hugh Hewitt | The Weekly Standard | Friday, May 20, 2005

The Royal Treatment

TERRY MORAN has been ABC's Chief White House correspondent since September, 1999. On Tuesday, Moran challenged White House spokesman Scott McClellan on the appropriateness of the call from the White House for Newsweek to do more to repair the damage from the Isikoff report. The New York Times's Elisabeth Bumiller followed up with questions that dripped with sarcasm: "Are you asking them to write a story about how great the American military is; is that what you're saying here?"

Terry Moran joined me for a three-part, on-air interview yesterday, the transcript of which is posted here. Moran's view of the world is interesting: including Moran's candor on the subject of hatred for Bush among a few "big fish" White House correspondents, the voting pattern of White House correspondents, the state of John Kerry's political future, the newsworthiness of Kerry's pledge--broken again--to release his SF 180, and the hostility of the media to the military in general and Newsweek's sins in particular.

But more than anything else, listeners and emailers reacted negatively to the arrogance that seeped from almost every answer Moran gave and to the press corps's hostility to the president and to the idea that the president's spokesman could legitimately call upon--not order, but urge--Newsweek to do more to reverse the damage done by their story. Here's one small bit of Moran's view of the world:

I don't think the media should be immune from criticism. I think the elected leader of the United States has his or her hands full, and plenty of things for the elected leader of the United States to do. I think media criticism is a great thing. I think what you do is a great thing. I do not think it's a great thing for the president's spokesperson to begin instructing the media how to go about its business.

The White House press corps often calls on the president to comment on--and criticize--everything under the sun, from Enron to the Saudis to the Israelis to you name it. But Moran's demand for immunity from White House cajoling, and the undeniable air of superiority Moran and most White House press types project is damning evidence that the elite media have gone from purveyors of news to Guardians of Truth.

Moran really thinks that the press ought not to be criticized by the president or his spokesmen. In making his demand for a special status above that of every American, Moran at least gave honest voice to the elite media's view of itself: above every citizen, above every elected official, above, well, everything.

He's entitled to his opinion of course, and his business is protected--and thankfully so--from government punishment and coercion.

But how can you trust a reporter's judgment when he thinks it inappropriate for the president's spokesman to suggest that Newsweek has some more work to do in helping to repair the damage it has done. That attitude is a guild mentality at best, and one not informed by American law or history.

Media arrogance now demands media immunity from presidential reproach. For a while now, media lawyers have been arguing for special status in courts. Soon--very soon, I suspect--they will view all third party criticism as illegitimate, an extension of the blogger rabble's invective.

Old media is acting a lot like old royalty.

Hugh Hewitt is the host of a nationally syndicated radio show, and author most recently of Blog: Understanding the Information Reformation That is Changing Your World. His daily blog can be found at

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