December 27th, 2008
01:08 PM ET
6 years ago

Obama gives the press the slip

Barack Obama enjoys some shaved ice while vacationing in Hawaii with his family.
Barack Obama enjoys some shaved ice while vacationing in Hawaii with his family.

WAIMANALO, Hawaii (CNN) – President-elect Barack Obama slipped away Friday from the traveling press pool that follows him wherever he goes, taking his two young daughters and other family members and friends to Sea Life Park Hawaii.

The Obamas are vacationing in Hawaii.

CNN was the only news organization to witness the park outing. The president-elect was joined by about nine others, including daughters Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10, half-sister Maya Sotero-Ng, her husband and daughter and friend Eric Whitaker.

The group caught a dolphin show before visiting a touch pool and the sea lion exhibit, where it was feeding time.

After the park visit, the Obama group was joined by the press pool - which arrived at the park about an hour after the Obamas but was not allowed in - as they stopped for a sandwich and shaved ice. The reporters refused an offer from Obama to buy them some shaved ice.

The press was allowed to take photographs for more than 20 minutes - much longer than the typical photo opportunity at such an event - before Obama asked the crews and the large crowd that had gathered to "let me eat in peace."

The traveling press pool that accompanies high-ranking officials like the president-elect or the president is made up of about 15 representatives from all types of media - newspaper, magazine, radio, television. Those representatives report back on their subject's movements for the rest of the media.

Their purpose is to provide a public record of the official's activities, a vital service in a functioning democracy.

On Friday, the pool went with Obama to the gym earlier in the day and then returned to their hotels after the transition team said there would be no further events.

"With no further scheduled events for the day, a lid was called until further notice," said Ben Labolt, a transition team spokesman. "The president-elect (later) decided to take the girls to a water park, and we assembled the pool as quickly as possible."

When the travel pool was notified that the Obamas were heading to the park, they notified other news agencies - including CNN. The pool had to return to the Obamas' vacation home to be taken to the park by the transition team; CNN's crew, not a part of the pool on Friday, was closer to the park.

When visitors of the park recognized the president-elect, they began snapping more photos and videos of Obama's group than of the marine animals. A number of Secret Service agents kept people at a safe distance, asking onlookers to keep walking after they stood looking at the group a while.

The Obamas are trying to establish a level of privacy for Sasha and Malia, as previous presidents have done with their own children. But it's been more than 30 years since a presidential child has been under the age of 10, and the fine line between keeping the public eye on the president-elect while keeping the children's privacy intact is not always clear.

Amy Carter, daughter of President Jimmy Carter, was 9 years old when her father took office. The children of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were grown when they took office, and Chelsea Clinton was 12 when President Bill Clinton took office. President George W. Bush's twins Jenna and Barbara were 20 when their father became president.

Four days ago, paparazzi staked out the Obamas' vacation rental home on the public Kailua Beach and snapped photographs of the family. The photos, particularly one of a shirtless Obama in swim trunks, caused a media firestorm.

The transition team dismissed the photo of the president-elect, but they were not pleased with the photos of the children.

CNN photojournalist Khalil Abdallah contributed to this report.

soundoff (288 Responses)
  1. happy new year

    enjoy the rest of your vacation mr. pe obama and family.

    December 27, 2008 08:37 am at 8:37 am |
  2. Irritated in Fl

    He's always trying to buy the press gifts. I guess he feels guilty for all the free positive coverage and protection they provided him during the election.

    December 27, 2008 08:44 am at 8:44 am |
  3. McKinney Kid

    Why couldn't CNN give the man and his family a little privacy? No citizen needs to know where Obama takes his family for a little family fun. No purpose is served, except to further erode the concept of privacy.

    December 27, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  4. Steven

    "Their purpose is to provide a public record of the official's activities, a vital service in a functioning democracy." Really CNN? Please give your readers a littl more credit. Should we now infer somehow that the PE's actions are undemocratic? C'mon. (Hmmm wondr if this would ever be posted?)

    December 27, 2008 08:45 am at 8:45 am |
  5. Dave

    Give the guy a break. you act like it was an affront to democracy that he did not invite you to dinner. Take the shave ice already.

    December 27, 2008 08:51 am at 8:51 am |
  6. madison

    Leave the family alone!!!!!

    December 27, 2008 08:56 am at 8:56 am |
  7. Darth Vadik, CA

    I don't get it, after 8 years of Bush, two unfinished wars, economy down the drain, the healthcare in the bottom of the third of all the countries in the world etc etc etc, people on the right still say they fear Obama.

    Why?

    Because he was at somebody's house whaen he was eight years old, served on the same board as some of the contreversial people (who never got charged) in the 60's?

    Obama is a self made man, daddy didn't leave him a legacy, he has no connections to the two biggest thieves in the world (oil and insurace companies) and people still think Obama is in the worse categoru than Bush?

    Please get a life, if Obama does something bad for the country I will be the first one to speak out, unlike millions of conservatives speak out against Bush, but the man has done nothing wrong. All people have is 6 degrees of separation, in which case I am 3 degrees separated from Bush, but that doesn't mean I support the idiotic ideas he has put forward.

    December 27, 2008 08:57 am at 8:57 am |
  8. John E Lexington KY

    Good for him. The press is really going to have to stop following Obama to the bathroom, it's ridiculous. There is no news when he takes his daughters to an aquarium. If there is news, they will get there quickly. Now he knows how Britney Spears feels.

    December 27, 2008 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  9. rich

    Obama's killing the press with kindness. lol. When he is not offerring them some beers, it's shaved ice. Now the press always have to state that they refused his offers pretending to be so ethical and above the board which is laughable. To be voyers of Obama's every single move is in itself unethical. I believe if the man was to go to the restroom the press would report it, so they may as well accept the man's offer of some shaved ice or beer and stop pretending to be what they arent. lol

    December 27, 2008 08:58 am at 8:58 am |
  10. Stu-Florida

    He should give them the slip... especially the ruthless paparazzi that insist on getting those precious kids shots. His SS boys need to do a better job of keeping them away. He deserves some privacy!!

    December 27, 2008 09:00 am at 9:00 am |
  11. (Former) Lifelong Republican for Obama, Columbia, TN

    I haven't much of any serious news reporting on the "Magic Negro" song. I mean, CNN and other mainstream media can spend all day on the Blago scandal, but can't apply any serious analysis toward this disturbing issue.

    December 27, 2008 09:02 am at 9:02 am |
  12. What a joke

    "Their purpose is to provide a public record of the official's activities, a vital service in a functioning democracy."

    What is so "vital" about reporting to the public what Barack ate for lunch today? Is it really "vital" that I see a picture of him eating shaved ice? What is so "vital" about telling us he went to see a dolphin show with his children? What's the big deal over seeing Barack "OMG shirtless!"? Have you NEVER seen someone on the beach without a shirt on before? Sounds like the media is jealous a paparazzi beat them to the photo.

    What the media considers "vital" continues to be a joke. The man's on vacation for the holidays trying to enjoy some time with his family, yet you treat him like he's a zoo exhibit following around his every move and act like a five year old child whenever you see him do something. "Barack's eating shaved ice, oh wow, look at that, get a picture!" then you go calling your editors, "Hey, it was really cool, Barack was eating shaved ice!! Quick, put a photo of it on the website!" Really, is THAT all it takes to amaze you people? Then you go acting all high and mighty when Barack offers to buy you some shaved ice and you "refuse" it.

    The economy is tanking, jobs are being lost left and right, the housing market is terrible, wars are going on overseas, and THIS is what you focus on?? Hence why the media continues to be a joke.

    December 27, 2008 09:03 am at 9:03 am |
  13. Nick

    I like how he always offers them something.

    December 27, 2008 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  14. DRK

    And yet they still manage to get photos of him. Sometimes I wonder if the press understands the fact that he is the President, not some kind of pop star who forgot her underwear. They really need to stop covering every tiny moment in his life. One of these days I fully expect to see a story about how Obama sneezed last Saturday...

    This is the most telling piece of this story:
    "Their purpose is to provide a public record of the official's activities, a vital service in a functioning democracy.
    On Friday, the pool went with Obama to the gym earlier in the day [...]."
    SERIOUSLY?? I don't think America will be invaded or we'll lose our rights to free speech if you leave the man and his family alone long enough not to know that he went to the gym...

    This is just plain stalking behavior and almost no one outside of the media really cares about these stories or the pictures of Obama doing parental things. Let us know when he fixes the economy or gets us a better health care system or if he turns out to be crooked, but none of us care if he goes to a park with his kids or what kind of dog he gets for them! Man!

    December 27, 2008 09:04 am at 9:04 am |
  15. roger in ga

    I wish the media would give the PE and his family a break. They deserve the family time just as the rest of us do so back off media. We will be seeing enough of him after he sits in the hot seat on 20 January of 2009.

    December 27, 2008 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  16. amused but happy in Vegas

    I agree that the incoming first family deserves some privacy, and that they shouldn't be taking pictures of the kids.

    However, does anyone really think that the picture of Obama with his shirt off did him any harm?

    I kinda like a buff president.

    December 27, 2008 09:07 am at 9:07 am |
  17. Juge

    YESSSSSSSSSS Way to go Obama!

    December 27, 2008 09:10 am at 9:10 am |
  18. Kathy

    Of course, offering shaved ice to the press was such an unscrutable and devious offer, that the obviously ethical press possessing such integrity, chose the hi road to meltdown.

    December 27, 2008 09:11 am at 9:11 am |
  19. Sandy

    Come on give the PE a break we have 8yrs of him and family. Let him at least enjoy this short vacation.

    God Bless PE/ Vice PE, there family and the USA!

    December 27, 2008 09:12 am at 9:12 am |
  20. Donna Wolf

    Good for him!!!!!! Let the man enjoy his vacation with his family. Their family life is going to be tough in a few months and they need som privacy. The press needs to BACK OFF. I'm dissapointed that CNN was even there to report this!

    December 27, 2008 09:13 am at 9:13 am |
  21. lizzy

    Poor guy... I know there's a price for obtaining the highest office in the country, but dang, can the man even take a dump without having the news report it?? I don't remember the press being all up in Bushes a@#! when he was elected twice (or did I care?) Anyway, I can't wait until Jan 20th...

    December 27, 2008 09:14 am at 9:14 am |
  22. Charlie in Maine

    I don't blame the rightwing nuts for being upset with the news. As my friend Steven Colbert says: "The truth has a definite liberal bias". Don't blame the reporters for telling the truth though. It is their job.

    December 27, 2008 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  23. M. Taylor

    Mr. Obama is just trying to be polite to the press. It is not as if offering some SHAVED ICE is some backroom deal. Besides it is all done in PUBLIC. If he press wants ot refuse SHAVED ice, that's their loss. They can afford shaved ice. Some of these comments can be so sillidy and childish, I would be alarmed if anyone over the age of 18 is writing these blogs.

    December 27, 2008 09:17 am at 9:17 am |
  24. Tania Gui

    Oh please!

    This is real life happening, not a freak show. The man wants some RR with his family before taking this hot potato our country has became.
    Remember@ His kids are about to change so much in their lives, including school. We don't really know if the grandparent is going to be able to stay as close as she has been. It is going to be a long time before they can experience "normal" family time after this.
    Let them be!

    December 27, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
  25. Messiah watch

    There entire lifestyle grossly contradicts what he and Michelle O have planned for the rest of us. They are the quintessential Cocaktail Party Marxists.

    December 27, 2008 09:18 am at 9:18 am |
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