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Calling the Fox News Channel "the communications arm of the Republican Party," White House aides have been complaining about slanted coverage from the cable network. Fox was pointedly excluded from a series of interviews President Barack Obama gave other networks on Sept. 20 about health care reform.
Conservative critics and some independent pundits have said the president is guilty of freezing out a legitimate news network because he doesn't like its coverage.
If that's the case, then President George W. Bush did it, too, said liberal talk show host Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. She said the Bush administration frequently excluded liberal columnists and talk show hosts from meetings Bush held with conservative media.
"Would it surprise you to learn that President Bush never did one interview with the New York Times during his entire presidency? Not one in eight years?" she asked.
That sounded suspicious to us, given that the New York Times is one of the largest newspapers in the country.
Sure enough, we were able to find at least three interviews that Bush gave the New York Times . (We'll update this item if we find more.)
• On June 5, 2001, New York Times reporter Frank Bruni had what he described as Bush's first "one-on-one interview" since Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont switched parties and threw control of the Senate to the Democrats. "We're looking at a different landscape, but still on the same continent," Bush said. "The same votes. The members haven't changed."
• On Aug 26, 2004, Bush gave a half-hour interview to the New York Times as he campaigned through New Mexico. Bush told the newspaper that he did not believe Sen. John Kerry lied about his war record, as some groups alleged during the campaign.
• On Jan. 27, 2005, a week after he started his second term, Bush spoke with New York Times reporters for 40 minutes, discussing troop levels in Iraq and domestic issues such as gay adoption, abortion and Social Security.
We couldn't find any interviews after that date, though we did find comments complaining about a lack of access from New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg on the newspaper's Web site on Nov. 9, 2008. A reader asked Stolberg if the White House played favorites when it came to press access. Stolberg wrote that the New York Times had had a standing request to interview Bush, "since well before I came on this beat in May 2006. So far, no interview — and the reason why is hardly a secret. White House officials are quite open about the fact that we have not gotten an interview because they don't like our coverage. I get e-mails to that effect from them all the time. But the request still stands, and we are hoping for an interview before Mr. Bush leaves office."
That might sound on first blush like the New York Times never got an interview ever , but the newspaper did have interviews prior to 2006.
The Rachel Maddow Show told us they were going off a Los Angeles Times blog post that was based on Stolberg's comments. The blog post was incorrectly headlined, "Nine years later the N.Y. Times still awaits its Bush interview."
The show did try to research the issue, "but obviously our fact-check fell short," Maddow said in a statement to PolitiFact. "We'll air a correction."
To be clear, we're not checking Maddow's broader point that Bush played favorites with the press. Is there any president who hasn't? Rather, we're checking Maddow's statement that President Bush "never did one interview with the New York Times during his entire presidency." That's not the case, so we rate her statement False.
MSNBC, The Rachel Maddow Show, Oct. 22, 2009
New York Times, As Senate Shifts, Bush is Expressing Optimism on Issues , June 6, 2001
New York Times, Bush Dismisses Idea That Kerry Lied on Vietnam , Aug. 27, 2004
New York Times, Bush Says Iraqi Leaders Will Want U.S. Forces to Stay to Help , Jan. 28, 2005
New York Times, Talk to the Newsroom: White House Correspondent , Nov. 9, 2008
New York Times, For Bush and Press, Informal Talks , March 28, 2006
Los Angeles Times, Nine years later the N.Y. Times still awaits its Bush interview , Nov. 12, 2008
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