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Woodward on White House email: 'I never said it was a threat'

Washington Post journalist Bob Woodward on Friday said he didn't feel threatened by a senior White House official who challenged his reporting on the President Obama's handling of sequestration negotiations. 

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But Woodward, who has been at the center of a media tempest over the controversy, said he didn't feel that it was appropriate for the official — White House economic adviser Gene Sperling — to tell him he would "regret" his characterization of Obama's position. 

"I never said it was a threat," Woodward said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."

Woodward's comments sparked a sharp exchange on the program with former senior White House aide David Axelrod, who accused the journalist of mischaracterizing the exchange. 

At issue is an email Sperling sent to Woodward following an apparently heated conversation about Woodward's reporting. In the email, Sperling apologized for "raising my voice" in a Feb. 22 conversation. 

"But I do truly believe you should rethink your comment about saying saying that Potus 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," Sperling wrote. 

Woodward told CNN the email made him feel uncomfortable and media accounts said the journalist considered it a threat. 

"It was said very clearly: 'you will regret doing this' " Woodward told CNN. 

Axelrod, who was also appearing on "Morning Joe," accused Woodward of mischaracterizing the exchange before the emails were made public.  

Axelrod noted that the Washington Post headline for the exchange between Woodward and Sperling said Woodward had been threatened. 

"But I never had, I never had," been threatened, Woodward said to Axelrod. "Come on, you know that."

Axelrod said Woodward's editors got the impression from Woodward that he was threatened. 

"But they got the impression from what you said that you were being threatened ... and when the full emails came out they were as cordial as can be," Axelrod said. 

"His email was cordial and your response was cordial, so if you felt threatened why didn't you say you to Gene, 'Don't threaten me?' "

"No, I did not feel threatened. What I have said David, and come on you are putting words in my mouth, is that I don't think this is the way to operate," Woodward responded. 

"And you and I have had many discussions —you've never said to me 'Oh you're going to regret that.' Am I correct?"

"Yes but this was a specific discussion about a specific point you had raised. It seemed like Gene, in that email, certainly was very, very polite in the way that he pushed," the exchange, Axelrod said. "But I'm not putting words in your mouth, Bob. It's your newspaper that said you were threatened."

"Now look, Gene is not a threatening sort of person and I never said this was a threat," Woodward said. 

Axelrod said that Obama had pushed a deal to prevent the sequester that included cuts and revenues. 

"I think what Gene was reacting to was that you suggested he moved the goal posts," Axelrod said. 

"Well he has!" Woodward interjected. 

"The goalposts have been in the same place from the very beginning," Axelrod said. 

"No they have not," Woodward said.