March 3rd, 2013
09:01 AM ET
10 years ago

Sperling on Woodward: ‘I think he's a legend’

(CNN) - Gene Sperling, a senior economic aide to the president, said he hopes he and veteran journalist Bob Woodward can look past their recent dustup, which made national headlines and divided the inside-the-Beltway crowd over the interpretation of one word: "regret."

"Bob and I have known each other for 20 years, and we've always had a friendly and respectful relationship," Sperling said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union."

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"Anyone who looks at the e-mails that went from me and came back from him can see that there's respect and friendliness," he continued.

In an appearance on CNN's "The Situation Room" on Wednesday, Woodward said that his recent reporting on the forced spending cuts known as the sequester had irked the White House and led to what he described as a hostile e-mail exchange between him and Sperling (although he would not name Sperling at the time).

"They're not happy at all," Woodward said.

"It was said very clearly, 'You will regret doing this,' " he continued, implying a threat.

In the week before the deadline for the sequester to kick in, Republicans and Democrats engaged in a public blame game, with each side faulting the other for the initial idea of the spending cuts back in August 2011.

Woodward, who literally wrote the book on the 2011 budget battle, published an op-ed in which he authoritatively stated that White House was the originator of the idea and went on to say that President Barack Obama was reneging on his pledge not to push for new revenues in any sort of deal to avoid the cuts.

Politico published the e-mails on Thursday, which a Democrat with knowledge of them identified as between Woodward and Sperling. White House press secretary Jay Carney did not dispute that the published e-mails were accurate.

The part of the e-mail from Sperling to Woodward that used the word "regret" said: "But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying … that (Obama) 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."

A White House official said Wednesday evening - after the CNN interview - that the e-mail Woodward referred to "was sent to apologize for voices being raised in their previous conversation.

The note suggested that Mr. Woodward would regret the observation he made regarding the sequester because that observation was inaccurate, nothing more. And Mr. Woodward responded to this aide's e-mail in a friendly manner."

As to why Woodward didn't interpret the e-mail in the spirit that Sperling said it was written, Sperling said, "I can't explain that entirely, but I'll say the following: I think he's a legend. I hope that him and I can put this behind us, and I hope that it helps all of us focus on the issues that Bob and I care more about, which is how we come to the type of budget agreement that will help our economy, help jobs, help middle-class Americans."

Sperling told CNN's chief political correspondent Candy Crowley that he had not spoken to Woodward since their e-mail exchange went public.

"I hope to," he said.

During the same hour Sunday, Woodward appeared on a separate program in which he offered an invitation to Sperling.

"He's a peacemaker," Woodward said Sunday on CBS's "Face The Nation." "I am in the business of listening, and I'm going to invite him over to my house if he'll come and hopefully he'll bring others from the White House, maybe the president himself, and we can - you know, talking really works."

- CNN’s Gregory Wallace contributed to this report.

Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.

Filed under: Bob Woodward • Debt • Deficit • Gene Sperling • TV-State of the Union
soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. Rick McDaniel

    Woodward absolutely told the truth, and he is NOT a Republican, so the WH can't use that excuse for the WH being exposed as a liar, and a manipulator.

    March 3, 2013 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  2. 2020

    Woodward was agitated when Obama not petting him like other presidents, he is eager to nail him in revenge. Unfortunately, with this smart president, he has nothing for him to hang his hat on.

    To pick a fight with WH aid is probably what he need to elavate his sagging hero image. O, his rush judgement made him sound silly, more a man of the past.

    Take it easy Woodward, retire.

    March 3, 2013 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  3. king

    Why is the american people is so short minded. I remembered the bitter fight over the debt in 2011, I remembered how the repubs said they got 98 percent of what they wanted because taxes wasn't involved. this repub journalist is a lyre and a typical fear mungering.

    March 3, 2013 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  4. ST

    It is so sad that Bob Woodward behaved like John McCain does nowadays. I do think it has to do with age. These two people were genius, but as they grow old they seem to behave differently. By reading the emails, Bob Woodward could not have reacted as he did 15 or 10 years ago.

    March 3, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  5. Athur

    What exactly would make a reporter regret telling the truth and why is this administration so concerned that people might hear the truth? Anyone else out there asking themselves this question? One would think they'd be happy to have achieved some small part of the promised transparency after many purposely abortive effots. These statements Woodward made were so palpably indisputable that a failure to at least acknowledge those indisputable facts would mark him or ANY journalist e torpid sycophant of the Obamessiah that most of them are. Most of them can't see the facts for the glare they're admiring off his "glistening pecs".

    March 3, 2013 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  6. Sara

    Now we know Woodward tells filbs. I watched Candy this morning and it only confirmed that the U.S. Congress has been conspiring to Harm this nation's economy. This nation's economy affects the working people ....NOT the the ones who can invest in the Stock Market and this is why we have become 2 classes of people with 2 economies.
    If we want to cheer because of political affiliations or other biased reasons....other than what is really happening and how it affects you as a working average "joe"....shame on you. It is obvious the people who have been elected based on this will walk away with a fat paycheck and cadillac benefits to provide for theirs, while you and I struggle to provide the basic needs for our families

    March 3, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  7. Steve

    What exactly would make a repoter regret telling th truth and why is this administration so concerned that people might hear it? One would think they'd by happy to have achieved some tiny part of the their promised transparency after many manufactured failures at the same. These statemens wooward made were so palpably obvious to anyone simply aware of the defiition of the word "fact" that a failure to at least acknowledgethem in passing would mark him or ANY reporter a torpid sycophant of the administration that most of them are. I'd feel much better if less than 75% of our supposed journalists weren't so blinded by the bright lights of their prop and set manufactured new "camelot" that they could mention a fact even in passing on the way to their next apologist statement on behalf of the annointed one and his wifes bangs.

    March 3, 2013 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  8. GI Joe

    Call it what it is - HYPE.

    Woodward is about to release another book and hype generates more sales. More sales generates more money.

    Figure it out, folks.

    March 3, 2013 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  9. Karl Jonas

    This is the biggest non story in years. Woodward, who's ego has taken over his world, cries like a baby when someone pushes back on his ridiculous reporting? Grow up Woodward. Watergate was 40 years ago and you've turned into a hack who claims to be the fly on the wall in every room. You're over the hill coasting on your old reputation. Where was that stellar journalism when Cheney/Bush lied us into a war and drove the country into the ground? Not a peep from Bob. You don't see Carl Bernstein acting like a spoiled 6 year old!

    March 3, 2013 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  10. jonnyg

    How quick the liberals turn on one of their own, as soon as they stop spewing the party talking points

    March 3, 2013 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  11. Martha in CF

    Bob Woodward has become part of the FAUX news. He is a cry baby just like the others that are on the show!!!!!! Bob has told some untruths here and he was caught.....So he has to go on every TV show and cry about it.....
    I think Bob Woodward is an awesome journalist and has discovered a lot in his days-this latest fiasco is disappointing.

    March 3, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  12. lottie

    Woodward has lost his edge if he thinks that was a threat then it is time to retire. . Lots of hooey about nothing.

    March 3, 2013 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  13. Randy, San Francisco

    There comes a time when even Legends should leave the stage and retire gracefully with his or her dignity and integrity intact.

    March 3, 2013 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  14. Thomas

    Woodward , get over it .

    March 3, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  15. Donkey Party

    Just another fabricated GOP lie. I despise them all.

    March 3, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  16. freedom

    This guy is a weasel, and could learn a lot from Woodward. Bob Woodward had nothing to gain personally from exposing these slimy tactics from the Obama admin. He's a reputable journalist, and this is his attempt at trying to keep the profession honorable, as it once was. He has seen much in his years of experience, and instead of this White House and other journalists ridiculing him for his age, they should be learning from his wisdom. A very sad statement on our society and this presidency.

    March 3, 2013 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  17. cbr

    No one threatened Bob Woodward. He may very well regret his statements when he is proved wrong. That part was clear. The use of force was never mentioned. This was just another way for Bob Woodward to get publicity for his latest book.

    His books have never measured up against the book he wrote with Bernstein. He has allowed his ego to take over and used the memo to cry foul. Even Bob Woodward should be able to read that memo as it was intended particularly because he knows the author so well.

    March 3, 2013 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  18. Name lynn

    The devil vs cobra whats next, let them do whatever.

    March 3, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  19. labman57

    Woodward yells “Fire!” and complains about an inferno — alas, it was all smoke and mirrors.

    Of course, bombastic blowhards such as Limbaugh, Levin, Coulter, Malkin, and Hannity have never allowed reality to undermine their hyperbolic rhetoric, and so they opted to milk Woodward's attempts to play the maligned martyr to the max.

    March 3, 2013 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  20. ThinkAgain

    @freedom: "This guy is a weasel, and could learn a lot from Woodward. Bob Woodward had nothing to gain personally from exposing these slimy tactics from the Obama admin."

    Here's my short answer, in case CNN won't post the long version: Google what the President said about the sequester when he signed the legislation; no goal post moving has been involved (Woodward lie #1).

    Google Sperling's email and read the entire text yourself; no "threats" were made (Woodward lie #2).

    While you're researching, Google the November 2, 2011 letter co-signed by 40 Republicans agreeing to consider tax increases as part of the deficit reduction deal. This was part of the "Grand Bargain" that the Repubs (specifically, Eric Cantor) torpedoed.

    Woodward should be ashamed of himself for lying.

    March 3, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  21. ThinkAgain

    @Rick McDaniel: "Woodward absolutely told the truth, and he is NOT a Republican, so the WH can't use that excuse for the WH being exposed as a liar, and a manipulator."

    No, Woodward lied. Read what the President said when he signed the legislation about the sequester. Read Sperling's email. Stop listening to Fox and Limbaugh and do a little research.

    And while you're in this thoughtful mood, stop to consider just how many times you've been lied to by Fox and the GOP.

    March 3, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  22. ThinkAgain

    To all you Obama-haters out there, Google what the President said on August 2, 2011 when he signed the debt ceiling/deficit reduction bill (Budget Control Act of 2011). The bill would cut spending by as much as $2.4 trillion over the next decade. In part:

    "It also means reforming our tax code so that the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations pay their fair share. And it means getting rid of taxpayer subsidies to oil and gas companies, and tax loopholes that help billionaires pay a lower tax rate than teachers and nurses."

    Woodward lied when he said that the President "moved the goal posts". The President has ALWAYS been clear on the need to raise taxes; and the American people showed their support of him by reelecting him.

    March 3, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  23. Reallyfatigued

    Woodward was an icon, lionized by the left over the past few decades as an example of a hard hitting, uncompromising investigative journalist. Now that he's had the temerity to report the simple facts surrounding the real origin sequester (Jack Lew-WH) which don't square with the newly revised WH talking points, he's suddenly a doddering pariah.

    March 3, 2013 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  24. wordsisgood

    "I hope that him and I can put this behind us"

    Smart enough for government work, I guess.

    March 3, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  25. Yanni

    "I'm going to invite him over to my house if he'll come and hopefully he'll bring others from the White House, maybe the president himself,..." Woodward takes himself very seriously, is he delusional? Why is the subject of the discussion? He is a journalist why he is injecting himself it to the issue and the debate, and discussion. With this kind of self promotion how objective he can be? It seems he want to co-pilot the presidency

    March 3, 2013 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
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