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. Lori

    I'm glad to see that we'll have a family man in the office without daughters who get drunk and use fake id (Bush) or get pregnant out of wedlock (Palin). Real family values. Let our next President enjoy his vacation before he has to tackle the mess that Bush left him.

    P.S. CNN focus on the 'Barack the Negro' CD and the RNC. That is legitimate news that should be all over the news probably more so than the Blago affair that has no direct connection to Obama (especially since the man called Obama four letter words in disgust). Focus on the racists in the RNC.

    December 27, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  2. PCS / North Carolina

    The other trhead is closed.

    RNC is a party of elected member of KKK. It seems to be a very true statement by a blogger.

    December 27, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  3. Carl Buick

    What's this BS about trying to get a birth certificate? Check out snopes for a pic of his birth certificate. It's incredible wishful thinking that he isn't eligible to become POTUS and Biden will get the job. Enough with this divisiveness! Give the man a chance. He can't do any worse than the failure we now have in office.

    December 27, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  4. Jimbo

    After reading the comments what scares me more is the improper use of the English language not who's president elect..

    December 27, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  5. Dawn

    That is really sweet, but when he's sitting in the Oval Office, he will have actually no time with his family. His family is the United States of America. We as a Country will be pulling on his pant leg saying 'Daddy we need..." I wish him luck with his family and his billions members of his extended family.

    Happy New Years,

    We sure do need it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 27, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  6. snugglebunny

    So sad. Give the man some peace.

    December 27, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  7. James

    It seems like Al- Franken is going to win the Minnesota race which shows that Bush had never won the Florida recount. That been said, Bush will go down in history as the worst president ever! But conservatives are mad that Obama is so popular around the world and the American people love him. At first the Conservative Party started running ridiculous ad to connect Obama with the Blagojevich scandal. It won't surprise me if they start running an ad that Obama ditched the press, is that the change that we need. Pathetic!

    December 27, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  8. Patti

    Half sister? Who has a child from a previous marriage? Gossip gossip gossip!

    December 27, 2008 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  9. RD

    Papparazzi following children? Isn't that called stalking?

    December 27, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  10. Madoff mania

    Nice watch.Obama is resting up for the years of cleanup duty yet to come. I see uncle Rushies one man with fifty name ditto crew is here already.You have to give the scumbag credit,he or she does getup early.

    December 27, 2008 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  11. keep a eye on him

    We need to keep the press by his side watching every move he makes. That way the American people can see hime for what he really is.

    December 27, 2008 10:49 am at 10:49 am |
  12. DE

    Hey CNN why not cover what Obama arranged as a photo op by visiting the military in Hawaii? Could it be because he was met by silence from the military and their families when he entered the room? "As Obama entered the room, it was absent of the regular fanfare of cheering and clapping. The diners were polite, staying seated at their respective tables and waited for the president-elect to come to them to stand up". Seems like the military knows the difference between a president and an empty suit.

    December 27, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  13. Texas Teacher

    l love to hear about the Obama wherever they are. But at the same time, I am concerned that these tid bits of news are becoming the main items all too frequently.

    What has happened to the Wall Street Bail Out? What are those bankers doing with OUR Tax Dollars? I know that Bush has seen to it that there are NO regulatory sanctions attached to the Dollars received, but I feel it is the role of the Media to ask, WHY NOT? Surely we are NOT going to sit back and say, Do What You Will with that Money!

    December 27, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  14. Polar polarizer

    Let the man go about restoring the presidency to the "leader of the free world" status that BushBoy destroyed.

    December 27, 2008 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  15. Chuck1RWN

    The media should positively give the Preident elect & his family privacy, particularly before January 20th, when every move will be part of a public record.

    I don't understand how a firestorm can be created by a "shirtless" photo of an official, unless it was Sarah Palin possibly.

    Oh god, the thought of Hilary just popped into my head......

    December 27, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  16. REGGIE92

    Isreal bombing Gaza and this BO guy is hanging around an icecream parlor. Get back to Washington and get briefed on the conditions. This guy is so full of himself it makes me sick. The choices he is making are not the mark of a good leader. Sitting on the sidelines is no way to show the world you are ready to lead. Now drop the shaved ice or whatever you call it and get yourself ready for your new job. The party is over BO.

    December 27, 2008 10:54 am at 10:54 am |
  17. MK

    Hey "reggie92" or whatever your name is, the Bush girls were in their 20's when W took office. No one wants the press to stalk these little kids, except maybe you......pervert.

    December 27, 2008 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
  18. Joe

    Probably because you are all morons. CNN is full of morons.

    December 27, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  19. Adam from Ohio

    Ooh, that rascal! Giving the press the slip to watch the dolphins with his kids!

    ... Leave him alone for a minute, and stop trying to make up scandals.

    December 27, 2008 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  20. Greg Hodges

    Given the level of anger at his election, this man needs all the private family time he can get. I thought that Nov.4/2008 might really be an indication that the U.S. had turned the corner in healing the divisions of the last 8 years. It seems the Republicans have accomplished their mission in permanently creating an us vs. them mentality in their war on all things Democrat. The hatred on the blogs is truely disturbing. As Lincoln said; "No foreign power can bring America down, if we fail it will be from divisions within. United we stand; divided we fall!" Have a fun time on your vacation Barack, once Jan. 20/09 arrives the poison continues.

    December 27, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  21. Holden

    @phyllis December 27th, 2008 10:19 am ET

    I'm sorry, but your comment makes no sense at all. IF he were indeed an egomaniac, as you claim him to be, and if he DOES love to seek attention, wouldn't you think he would stay in the spotlight of the press, as opposed to trying to get some alone time with his family/close friends?

    Be rational, please.

    December 27, 2008 11:00 am at 11:00 am |
  22. brooklyn boy

    really!?! this is news? really?!?!

    December 27, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  23. Aubrey

    I'd totally accept an offer of shave ice from the PE. I understand why the reporters didn't accept the beer (no alcohol on the job allowed), but come on- take your picture, eat your ice, and leave the guy alone!

    December 27, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  24. David

    I think the pictures the media took of the little girls in their bathing suits and posted online was in bad taste. These girls were in the privacy of thier backyard pool.

    December 27, 2008 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  25. Zach

    I would really like to know how following the President-Elect around as he takes his daughters to a water park is a "vital service in a functioning democracy". This is not news and CNN should be ashamed. Before Watergate, the press actually had a sense of decency and respect for the private lives of our public officials.

    Just because we don't have video of Obama every minute of every day does not automatically mean a scandal is afoot. Leave the poor man alone and let him enjoy his vacation with his family!

    December 27, 2008 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
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