White House on Woodward: Sperling Email Wasn't 'Threatening Anybody'

By Fred Lucas | February 28, 2013 | 4:01 PM EST

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. (AP)

(CNSNews.com) – White House Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted that no one at the White House threatened Washington Post journalist  Bob Woodward over his reporting, despite what Woodward asserted on Wednesday during a CNN interview.

Though Woodward did not initially say who made the threat during the CNN interview, it was later revealed to Politico that it was Obama’s chairman of the National Economic Council, Gene Sperling, who made the apparently foreboding remarks in an e-mail to Woodward.

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“Gene Sperling, in keeping with a demeanor I have been familiar with for more than 20 years, was incredibly respectful,” Carney told reporters on Thursday. “It referred to Mr. Woodward as his friend and apologized for raising his voice. I think you cannot read those e-mails and come away with the impression that Gene was threatening anybody, as I think others have observed.”

Woodward reported in The Post that the sequester idea in 2011 -- the automatic spending adjustments set to take effect tomorrow if the president and Congress do not act – was the idea of the White House, specifically of then-Chief of Staff Jack Lew (newly sworn in Treasury Secretary) and congressional liaison Rob Nabors.

“The point, though, I wish reporters would pay attention to, the policy substance of that e-mail, because the point that he was making is the point that I and the president have made,” Carney said. “This is really important policy. And one thing that is absolutely irrefutable is that the president from day one of signing the Budget Control Act [in August 2011] has been absolutely clear in dealing with deficit reduction going forward and in replacing and eliminating sequester, he believed we had to have balance. You’d have to have your head in the sand not to know that.”

During the CNN interview, Wolf Blitzer asked Woodward, “Share with our viewers what's going on between you and the White House.”

Woodward responded, “Well, they're not happy at all, and some people kind of, you know, said, look, we don't see eye to eye on this. They never really said, though -- afterwards, they've said that this is factually wrong, and they -- and it was said to me in an e-mail by a top –.”

Blitzer interrupted, “What was said?”

Woodward answered, “It was said very clearly, you will regret doing this.”

During the interview, Blitzer said, “We invited the White House to send someone here, to debate this issue with you, and they declined.”

Woodward responded, “Why? Because it's irrefutable.That's exactly what happened. I'm not saying this is a moving of the goal posts that was some criminal act or something like that.”

Woodward also said, "I mean, it makes me very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, you're going to regret doing something that you believe in. And even though we don't look at it that way, you do look at it that way. ..."

Politico first reported that Sperling’s e-mail to Woodward said, “I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today. You’re focusing on a few specific trees that give a very wrong impression of the forest. But perhaps we will just not see eye to eye here.” The e-mail went on to say, “I think you will regret staking out that claim.”

Woodward’s article in The Post on Sunday said, “My extensive reporting for my book ‘The Price of Politics’ shows that the automatic spending cuts were initiated by the White House and were the brainchild of [Jack] Lew and White House congressional relations chief Rob Nabors -- probably the foremost experts on budget issues in the senior ranks of the federal government. Obama personally approved of the plan for Lew and Nabors to propose the sequester to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).”

The piece went on to say, “So when the president asks that a substitute for the sequester include not just spending cuts but also new revenue, he is moving the goal posts.”