- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 11, 2009

For the third time in just 10 months, the White House Communications Office, charged with designing and delivering President Obama’s message, will have a new director.

Anita Dunn, who escalated a feud with Fox News when she declared the top cable-news network “a wing of the Republican Party,” will step down from her interim post at the end of the month.

She is the second White House communications director to leave the job since Mr. Obama took office in January; Ellen Moran abruptly left the post in May, dispatched to the Commerce Department. Dan Pfeiffer, Mrs. Dunn’s deputy and longtime protege, is expected to replace her.

Asked if Mrs. Dunn’s outspoken criticism of Fox News contributed to her departure, the White House was incredulous.

“Oh, for the love of God, are you being serious?” assistant press secretary Thomas F. Vietor said in an e-mail. “She has always said that she would be here temporarily. There is no connection.”

Unlike her predecessor, Mrs. Dunn, who is married to Mr. Obama’s personal attorney, Robert Bauer, will leave government altogether, returning to Squier Knapp Dunn Communications, the consulting firm where she is a partner. The White House said Mrs. Dunn, who worked on Mr. Obamas campaign, will remain a consultant.

During Mrs. Dunn’s six-month tenure, Mr. Obama’s approval rating slid to about 50 percent.

While Mr. Obama has been trying to drum up support for his top agenda items, Mrs. Dunn, a veteran political operative, targeted Fox News, calling it “opinion journalism masquerading as news.”

“The reality of it is that Fox News often operates almost as either the research arm or the communications arm of the Republican Party,” she said last month.

Other top White House officials picked up the attack, making it clear that it was an administration strategy to target the network. Senior Obama adviser David Axelrod said Fox News shouldn’t be treated as a news outlet, and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel declared “it is not a news organization.”

But the anti-Fox campaign was maligned even by Democratic strategists, who called it a needless distraction at a time when Mr. Obama was trying to pull together the warring wings of the Democratic Party.

Mrs. Dunn was mired in controversy almost from the start. On June 5, during a speech to students at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Potomac, she said Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong was one of her “favorite political philosophers.”

After Fox News host Glenn Beck aired a clip of the speech on his show, she appeared on CNN to clarify her remarks, saying “the use of the phrase ‘favorite political philosophers’ was intended as irony, but clearly the effort fell flat - at least with a certain Fox commentator whose sense of irony may be missing.”

As the flux continues in the White House Communications Office, Mrs. Dunn’s departure means a third director will take over. Mr. Pfeiffer joined the Obama campaign in 2007, serving as the traveling press secretary for the candidate’s campaign. He also worked for South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson’s re-election in 2002 and then on South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle’s failed re-election bid in 2004. He also worked for former Vice President Al Gore.

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