OK, quick question: An employee on your network goes on the air, and claims that the White House called him personally, to attack him for opining that the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) mandate should be delayed. He won’t name names and gets dodgy when pressed for details. What do you do? Well, if you’re Fox News and the employee is “liberal” Bob Beckel, you promote the claim largely unquestioned. Later, when he changes the story and says it was a former White House official and that Beckel was the one doing the calling, you continue hyping the story anyway.
Beckel debuted the claim on America’s Newsroom last week, where host Bill Hemmer ate up every word. Here’s a transcript of that portion of the conversation:
HEMMER: Robert Beckel, former Democratic manager, co-host of The Five, how are you, Bobby G.?
BECKEL: Well, I’m fine Billy Hemmer.
HEMMER: I gotcha, buddy. I know this is your favorite topic…
BECKEL: Yeah, it’s like being a fire hydrant at the Westminster Dog Show.
HEMMER: (laughing) Indeed; At least for now. Now who misled him… Who misled the president on this? You have an answer on that?
BECKEL: I think I have some idea; I had a, you know, the other day on The Five, I called for a delay for the implementation of this for six months to a year. And I got a call from somebody at the White House, who absolutely bludgeoned me over it, and I said ‘Look, you can’t do this. Yes, it’s true that it’s (Obamacare) not a website, I understand that, but it’s a portal to get through to get insurance. And here’s my real problem with it, and that is that most people who want to get insured here have never been insured before, and if this is their first experience is to not get insured, and have all kinds of problems… They may not come back.’
HEMMER: So the White House called you and pushed back? (crosstalk) That means they’re - the possibility of a delay is not considered that strongly. That’s what I take from your answer there.
BECKEL: Yeah, well, I can’t believe that they will not. It makes such logical political sense to delay it a year…
HEMMER: (Smirking slightly) I’m not sure about that. I’m not sure, Bob, I mean have you looked at the ramifications of a one year delay? You know what happens? The CBO says 11 million additional Americans will be uninsured. MIT says an additional 26 million will be uninsured. The premiums, which are already creeping up on people, will do even higher.
So here we have a Fox News Democrat, promoting Republican talking points and saying very clearly that he got a call from somebody at the White House.
Later, on The Five, Beckel said that he didn’t need to name the White House official, because he “was no longer there.” When co-host Greg Gutfeld asked if that meant Beckel had gotten the official fired, Beckel nodded. The other co-hosts started laughing, and Bolling claimed, “Now I know who it is!” Tantaros followed with a sing-song, “and the guessing game begins!” Beckel said, “Well, I was given an opinion, and that opinion was that my opinion sucked, basically. I mean, it was very... This particular person, he was a friend of mine. He said ‘You know, that was a bad thing for you to do, and it went on for some time. I said that I sat next to Bolling, and what can I say... It rubs off on me. What can I tell you?”
Hold the phone! So, this guy is a friend of Beckel’s who called him in a conversation between friends (i.e. not on a professional level) about the nature of some of his comments? And Beckel nodded yes when asked if he got the guy fired, and allowed the rest of the panel to laugh at that, like it was funny? So classy I could puke. Let’s continue…
Later still, in an introduction to Beckel’s appearance on the Hannity show, Sean Hannity said that Beckel “received a phone call from a former White House official who quote, absolutely bludgeoned him (for his suggestion Obamacare should be delayed).”
After refusing to name the person on the other end of the telephone call, Beckel told Hannity, “I called and said, as I often do, ‘I think it’s a good idea for us to think this thing through because from a policy standpoint…” Later, when Andrea Tantaros, also a guest on the Hannity show, referred to the person “who called you from the White House,” Beckel clarified that it’s a “former White House person, highly placed, but former White House person who on occasion yells at me.” (Video of this segment here)
So it’s looking like Beckel was never “bludgeoned” by the White House but had a heated discussion with a former White House official, with whom Beckel is friendly, about delaying (or not) the Obamacare mandate. And it’s quite possible Beckel was the one doing the calling.
But Fox Nation is so intent on having its readers think that the White House tried to silence Beckel's criticism that it hasn't bothered to clarify. The "fair and balanced" website still has the headline, “Beckel: White House Called Me After I Criticized ObamaCare,” and his quote about being “absolutely bludgeoned” by them prominently placed.