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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Free Press, But Don't Press Obama

Free Press, But Don’t Press Obama
One of the cherished freedoms in America, is the free press.   And one of the press institutions in American is the White House Press Corp.   These are the best and brightess members of the world press corp, that have the high visibility assignment of covering the White House.    Usually, that also means covering the President.   Except for President Obama.   He is generally unavailable.  
There was some rich irony at the White House today -- President Obama signed the Press Freedom Act, and then promptly refused to take any questions.
The new law expands the State Department's annual human rights reports to include a description of press freedoms in each country. It seemed a good opportunity to showcase press freedom in this country.
Recall that last Friday the president refused to take any questions after delivering his angry statement on the oil spill in the Rose Garden. And he has not held a prime time White House news conference in many months, despite much pleading from pundits and members of the media.
So after he signed the bill, and as the press "wranglers" began aggressively herding us out of the room, I asked if he still has confidence in BP. He ignored the question so I tried this: "In the interest of press freedom, would you take a couple questions on BP?"
That did elicit a smile (from the President), and he told me I was free to ask questions. Someone else shouted, "Will you answer them?"
He said he's not holding a press conference today as we were escorted out the door.
From the CBS White House correspondent Chip Ried, 5.16.10

So, let’s not ask any questions of the President.   The usual give and take is “off limits”, as only the scripted version of the President’s views and comments are allowed, and only when the teleprompter is available.    No need to respond to a question by the Press, when that will only threaten the sanitized version of the White House story!

We’ll see how long the public relations campaign lasts before the press demands Presidential access for some real news?

© 2010, Jasper Welch, Four Corners Media,   

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