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May 30, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Things may not look so dire for Barack Obama as they did for Lyndon Johnson when Walter Cronkite spoke out against the Vietnam War and it was said that the president had lost the press (and the country), but the recent revelations that the Department of Justice had been secretly tracking the phone records of AP and Fox News reporters has certainly got the backs up of several news organizations. An attempt by Attorney General Eric Holder to smooth things over by holding an off-the-record meeting on Friday with the press to discuss the department’s policies succeeded only in making matters worse. On Wednesday, the AP and the New York Times each announced that they would boycott the meeting if it is held off-the-record. AP issued a statement saying, “If it is on the record, AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll will attend. If it is not on the record, AP will not attend and instead will offer our views on how the regulations should be updated in an open letter. We would expect AP attorneys to be included in any planned meetings … .” New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson issued a statement later in the day saying, “It isn’t appropriate for us to attend an off-the-record meeting with the attorney general. Our Washington bureau is aggressively covering the department’s handling of leak investigations at this time.” By evening CNN, the Huffington Post and the McClatchy newspapers had joined the boycott. McClatchey Washington bureau chief James Asher issued the strongest response, telling Poynter that the meeting now appeared “designed mostly to make a public relations point and not a substantive one. If the government wants to justify its pursuit of journalists, they ought to do it in pubic.” Fox News and NBC News said that they had not decided whether to attend. The Washington Post and, however, said that they would do so. The generally negative reaction of the press to Holder’s off-the-record meeting brought a furious reaction from former Vermont Governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean. Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program today (Thursday), Dean denounced the “thin-skinned and sanctimonious” press. He said that while he usually sides with the press, “if I’m Obama or Eric Holder, I got a problem because my intelligence is being compromised. This is a tough issue.”