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February 28, 2013

A threat? Woodward tells Sperling he welcomes "a little heat"

Politico has obtained emails exchanged between the White House and Bob Woodward that the Washington Post editor Wednesday said show were part of a White House threat that he'd "regret" writing a column that said Obama was "moving the goal posts" on sequestration.

Woodward on Wednesday told Politico and CNN that the White House reacted furiously to a column he wrote last weekend -- and threatened that he'd "regret" his words.

But the email exchange -- posted Thursday -- suggests Woodward was intially fine with the exchange, writing back that "This is all part of a serious discussion. I for one welcome a little heat; there should (be) more given the importance."

Woodward wrote that Obama was "moving the goal posts" by initially agreeing with House Speaker John Boehner to impose spending cuts only -- and not tax revenues -- in hammering out the details of the sequester. The White House says Obama has consistently pressed for a mix.

Woodward told CNN that a senior administration official emailed him and told him he'd "regret" writing the column. He went on to tell CNN that it makes him "very uncomfortable to have the White House telling reporters, 'you're going to regret doing something that you believe in.' "

Woodward read the e-mail to Politico, which said the veteran Washington journalist made clear that he saw the words as a threat. He went on to tell Politico that the White House communications shop must "be willing to live in the world where they're challenged."

"I've tangled with lots of these people. But suppose there's a young reporter who's only had a couple of years — or 10 years’ — experience and the White House is sending him an email saying, 'You're going to regret this,' " Woodward told Politico. "You know, tremble, tremble. I don't think it's the way to operate."

BuzzFeed confirmed the White House official was Gene Sperling, director of the White House Economic Council, and Politico said the White House may release all the emails to show it wasn't as Woodward says.

An unnamed White House official told Politico that "of course not threat was intended." The official said the email was sent to "apologize for voices being raised" in a conversation.


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"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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