Otter on the price of relying solely on Fox News

A reflective Gov. Butch Otter says depending on news from sources that one agrees with can complicate problem solving, citing a dysfunctional Congress, the state-run health exchange under Obamacare and the “Common Core” debate as examples.

“My primary portal for looking into the world is Fox News,” Otter said. “So I get a certain contamination — maybe ‘contamination’ is the wrong word — get a certain feeling of relief that they agree with my conservative philosophy.”

Otter said the practice of seeking news from outlets with an ideological slant also applies to the left.

In recent months, Otter has led the enactment of the state-run exchange and supported adoption of Common Core education standards over objections of Fox News loyalists in the Legislature and the public.

Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Luna, a key Otter ally, has posted a “Myths & Facts” guide on Common Core on his official website. Luna debunks claims that the standards are federally mandated, advance a “leftist agenda,” and create a national database on students’ family income, religion, DNA, iris scans and fingerprints.

“It’s very easy to to say, ‘This is the way I’m going to believe,’” Otter said. “I mean, does that reflect on these people that won’t change their mind on their idea of an international world order conspiracy? There may well be one there, but in some of the things that they pick on, I don’t see it.

“And, of course, ‘Common Core’ sounds like this is going to be common to everybody. Maybe it’s semantics and maybe it’s a poor choice of words on those who would create bumper stickers for political decisions.

“But I have to deal with reality. I find it convenient sometimes to identify the problems philosophically, but I find it impossible to identify the solution totally philosophically.”

Otter served six years in the U.S. House before becoming governor in 2007. Leaving Congress, he said he “thought the divergence of opinion there was terribly dysfunctional and couldn’t get worse. And I look at it today and say, ‘How did it get worse?’”

Being one of 435 members of the House is far different than being governor, Otter said, where problem-solving is a daily duty.

“You can identify the problem philosophically, but you have to make that decision with an overwhelming amount of reality within your philosophical boundaries. I think that’s the problem in D.C.”

Otter commented on the media’s role in sharpening tensions between philosophy and reality during a meeting with the Idaho Statesman editorial board on Tuesday.


Dan Popkey came to Idaho in 1984 to work as a police reporter. Since 1987, he has covered politics and has reported on 25 sessions of the Legislature. Dan has a bachelor's in political science from Santa Clara University and a master's in journalism from Columbia University. He was a Congressional Fellow of the American Political Science Association and a Journalism Fellow at the University of Michigan. A former page in the U.S. House of Representatives, he graduated Capitol Page High School in 1976. In 2007, he led the Statesman’s coverage of the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news. In 2003, he won the Ted M. Natt First Amendment award from the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association for coverage of University Place, the University of Idaho’s troubled real estate development in Boise. Dan helped start the community reading project "Big Read." He has two children in college and lives on the Boise Bench with an old gray cat.

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