EVEN NPR…. Ken Rudin is the political editor for NPR. To see him swallow the latest Republican attack meme whole is more than a little painful. Here’s his commentary on “Talk of the Nation” yesterday, complaining about the White House’s criticism of Fox News.

“Well, it’s not only aggressive, it’s almost Nixonesque. I mean, you think of what Nixon and Agnew did with their enemies list and their attacks on the media and certainly Vice President Agnew’s constant denunciation of the media. Of course, then it was a conservative president denouncing a liberal media, and of course, a lot of good liberals said, ‘Oh, that’s ridiculous. That’s an infringement on the freedom of press.’ And now you see a lot of liberals almost kind of applauding what the White House is doing to Fox News, which I think is distressing.”

I’d like to think Ken Rudin knows better. I expected too much.

Now would be an excellent time for a reality break. Has the Obama White House ordered the Justice Department to spy on Fox News employees? Has the administration ordered the IRS to start digging through Fox News’ books, hunting for irregularities and auditing on-air personalities? Has the president directed thugs to break into Glenn Beck’s psychiatrist’s office?

Of course not, that would be insane. And so is this comparison.

Nixon used the power of the presidency to harass, intimidate, and investigate those who questioned him. It was as scandalous an abuse as the nation has ever seen — the White House used the levers of government to attack independent news outlets.

And what as the Obama team done? They’ve dared to point out a simple reality: an obviously-partisan propaganda outlet in not a legitimate news organization. That’s it. That’s the totality of the White House’s efforts — criticizing a network that operates as an arm of a political party. There’s no boycott, no punishment, no vendetta. All we have here are some White House aides who’ve criticized a network.

And Ken Rudin, Ruth Marcus, and others are comfortable comparing this to Nixon’s illegal abuses and “enemies lists.”

As manufactured outrages go, this is truly ridiculous, even for a shallow Washington media establishment.

For years, Republicans have been on the attack — against the media in general, and a handful of outlets in specific. GOP leaders and officials have boycotted news outlets they don’t like; they’ve attacked networks they believed to biased; and they’ve routinely snubbed those whose coverage they disapproved of. The last White House went after NBC News, even from the briefing room’s podium. Republican disgust for the media has been a staple of American politics for what seems like forever. Ken Rudin, Ruth Marcus, and others never once compared this to Nixon-era abuses.

And yet, when the White House dares to offer mild and accurate criticism, the political establishment not only throws a fit to defend a sorry excuse for a journalistic enterprise, it embraces a nonsensical comparison to a former president/criminal.

It’s incomprehensible. Ken Rudin ought to be embarrassed.

Update: Rudin apologized this afternoon. Good for him.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.