Bob Woodward was a conservative hero for about 12 hours this week.
On Wednesday night, Woodward appeared on CNN and unapologetically made it seem as though a White House aide had threatened him over his (mostly accurate) reporting of President Barack Obama’s role in the budget sequester. According to his account of what transpired, said aide told him that he would ‘regret’ the way he reported on the cuts.
Predictably, numerous outlets (including ours) picked up the story and ran with it. However, while most simply relayed Woodward’s accusation, a token few conservative commentators decided to double down on it. They cited it as an example of the Obama Administration’s sensitivity and heavy-handedness. Suddenly the man who brought down Richard Nixon was the right's new hero.
But then Woodward’s e-mail exchange with economic adviser, Gene Sperling, the aide in question, actually came out. Per the Huffington Post:
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I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. I do understand your problems with a couple of our statements in the fall -- but feel on the other hand that you focus on a few specific trees that gives a very wrong perception of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here. But 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 ... My apologies again for raising my voice on the call with you. Feel bad about that and truly apologize.
To which Woodward replied:
Gene: You do not ever have to apologize to me. You get wound up because you are making your points and you believe them. This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should more given the importance. I also welcome your personal advice.
After the e-mails were made public, conservatives jumped off the bandwagon nearly as quickly as they had jumped on.
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Ok wow. Finally read the email to Woodward. I must now move to the "not a threat" camp.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) February 28, 2013
Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin: "…the full e-mails reveal less bullying and far more pomposity, suggesting the White House would have its critic's best interest at heart."
National Review’s Kevin Hassett: this was “…not some ham-fisted attempt to intimidate Woodward."
After reading Sperling-Woodward email, it's nowhere close to a threat. Agree with @mattklewis: People who made big deal of this got played.
— Byron York (@ByronYork) February 28, 2013
On one hand, only Woodward can say if he felt threatened by WH email. On the other, hard to imagine feeling threatened by Gene Sperling.
— Brit Hume (@brithume) February 28, 2013
For what it’s worth, Woodward isn’t backing off his claims. Sort of. During a Thursday night interview with Sean Hannity, the 69-year-old insisted that “he says I'm going to regret, you know, that goes into the coded, you know, 'you better watch out.’”
Needless to say, Woodward got far less support from the right after that claim than his original one. That’s what happens when you’re dubbed the reporter who cried wolf.