March 25th, 2009
12:25 PM ET
9 years ago

Behind the scenes: Ed Henry's take on exchange with Obama

CNN's Ed Henry says he had several provocative questions prepared in advance of the news conference.

CNN's Ed Henry says he had several provocative questions prepared in advance of the news conference.

Ed Henry, CNN's senior White House correspondent, got a tough answer from President Obama when he asked Tuesday night why Obama waited days to express outrage on the AIG bonuses. "Because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak," Obama said. Here's Henry's take on what happened.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - The most amazing part of the exchange to me is that I didn't go into the East Room intending to ask President Obama about AIG.

After frantic preparation for the prime-time newser with several colleagues, especially lead CNN White House producer Tim McCaughan, I had several provocative questions in my pocket.

But none of them had much to do with the financial crisis because I assumed several of my colleagues would exhaust the topic of AIG before my turn came up.

Watch: Ed Henry on his exchange with Obama

At the first presser in February, I was about the 10th reporter the president called on. The economy had been chewed over so I went with a "sidebar" question about whether Obama, given his push for transparency, would overturn the policy at Dover Air Force Base preventing media coverage of coffins returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

It was a surprise line of inquiry. The president made news by saying the policy was under review - and a few weeks later he overturned it.

I was heading into this event with the same strategy: make news on something unexpected (I won't tell you which topics I was working on cause it would ruin the surprise for a future presser or interview with the president).

But on Tuesday night, as I sat in the front row nervously reviewing my hypothetical questions written out in longhand (decidedly old school), I kept thinking back to a conversation I had with Wolf Blitzer Saturday night at the Gridiron dinner.

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Filed under: AIG • Obama administration • President Obama
soundoff (130 Responses)
  1. Irma in North Carolina

    I think Ed Henry should go work for Fox news and take Lou Dobbs with him. I thought Cnn had better people then those two.

    March 25, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. katiec

    President Obama gave you a very good answer. And, hope it made you feel a little guilty about the actions of you and your peers.
    The press treats President Obama like the enemy, giving no respect and acting like his answers cannot be be trusted or truthful. You sit there pompous and obnoxious, always including negativity in your questions. Where have you been these last eight years?
    Your first mistake was to listen to Wolf as he licks the boots of the republicans and tries in any way he can to discredit any Democrat
    that he interviews. As a White House reporter, you are supposed to
    be above that?
    So believe that President Obama put you in your place.

    March 25, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  3. Nganenu

    Mr. Big mouth ed, did you think the president will let you go with such an impertinent attitude? Bush would have served you even harder. Respect is required of everybody. Go Obama
    nganenu [He who voices the truth]

    March 25, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. DeeTee

    You're right, reporter, you were just doing your job - which to me seems to amount to "gotcha journalism" among you newsies these days.

    The times are too serious for grandstanding reporters who want to ask what they think are trick questions to try to rile the President and get a nice little sound bite for their next news cycle.

    I'm glad to have a President who doesn't suffer fools, which could include reporters who think they are all that. Give it up, already. The guy is smart and knows what he's doing. And that's why we elected him.

    Where was all this pointed questioning when Bush was in power?!?!?

    March 25, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  5. Gary

    Instead of asking anything of importance, Henery asked a stupid " Gotcha" question. He looked like a fool and proved that CNN wants nothing but sencationalism. Ed Henery, you are out of your league.

    March 25, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  6. urbantexan

    I don't know about any one else,

    I cheered and told you to have a seat myself... hahahahahahaha
    CNN I see where this is going and I ain't following you anymore !!!!

    Where have you guys been these last 8 years.....PLEASE !!!!

    March 25, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  7. texan

    Ed got egg all over his face ----–

    March 25, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  8. SHIRLEY "60"

    Mr. Henry this is the second time that I can recall you have pretty much made a fool of yourself where this president is concerned. It is hard enough for people to tolerate you so-called journalists just doing your job asking the same inane questions over and over, but you should really grow up , and try to be more of a professional. This President won, and is working hard for the american people that need him, and should not have to listen to your re-hashing of something we have already moved on from. If you are called on again, try to have something betterand more constructive to ask please.

    March 25, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  9. Jennifer

    Apparently, these days it's "gotcha journalism" to ask a question that's been simmering around in the minds of many ordinary citizens. Because, let's face it, if it took Obama several days to express his "outrage" against AIG, he wasn't outraged. Given his smirks and light-hearted comments since this all came around, it seems he's entertained by the public outrage – certainly he's not sharing a single iota of disgust with the rest of us.

    March 25, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  10. kp

    "I was heading into this event with the same strategy: make news on something unexpected."

    It is not your job to "make news," your job is to report the news. Only a reporter with some type of g-d complex thinks that he/she somehow formulates policy by asking questions, rude or otherwise.

    "I won't tell you which topics I was working on cause it would ruin the surprise for a future presser or interview with the president."

    I didn't know we were back in middle school again? Do you really think "hiding the ball" and surprising Obama and your "fans" with these questions serves any purpose other than to draw attention to yourself on national tv? You didn't come across as intelligent last night, and you're continuing to show your egomaniacal nature today. Get over yourself. You got exactly what you deserved.

    March 25, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  11. Anonymous

    And, when he spoke, HE LIED! Don't you people get it?

    March 25, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  12. howido

    ED. this is what u get when u try to make urself smart. I hope next time that u gonna prepare and think twice ur question before u ask President Obama. Indeed, you got a cold show and hopefully, you will shut ur big mouth next time

    March 25, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  13. hollerbode

    Ed,I take it this is your apology?

    March 25, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  14. Barbara - Atlanta

    I think Ed Henry tried to ask the President a "gotcha questions" and the President got him!

    March 25, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  15. Janice in OK

    Ed, you had it coming!

    March 25, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  16. lupercal5

    ha! so you admit you were trying to sneak up on him with a gotcha question. you get a healthy smackdown and the whole press room laughed at you. you got mad. cnn felt degraded and you said he felt like he wanted to go home after you asked him the question 🙂 lol
    i mean the guy's been confronted with so many issues, and he's yet keeping his confidence and you think your softball gotcha shook him up so bad he wanted to go home? if you're justifying your question, it means it was a sweet zinger lol

    March 25, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  17. Robo Captain

    Wow! Look at you Mr. Henry! You asked a pointed question! I guess that makes you think you are a real journalist now. The self-congratulatory nature of this column, as well as the attitude of other media-types (NOT journalits), who are out to get the "truth" from this adminsitration, is laughable. When did anyone in the White House press corps, besides Helen Thomas, ever ask a pointed question of Mr. Bush while he was president? When did you, Mr. Henry, ask a pointed question of anyone in Mr. Bush's adminsitration in the run up to the Iraq war? How many lives would have been saved - American and Iraqi - if the press had done its real job six years ago before we invaded Iraq?

    Don't pretend to be a real journalist now. We are not so stupid that we do not remember the last eight years of the press parroting the talking points of Karl Rove and the Bush Administration. Looks like you're still parroting their talking points – this exchange with President Obama only further solifies your role as the mouthpiece of the right wing corporate-owned media. I will watch the Daily Show if I want real news, not CNN.

    March 25, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  18. Eli in Texas

    People people people get a grip it does not matter if you agree with the new president or not. He was elected so we have to deal with him even though I did'nt vote for him or respect his views I do respect the office of the president and support it when it sends this county in the right direction and appose it when I feel it does not. So just because someone does not want the president to succeed does not mean they don't want the country to succeed. Only time will tell who is right or wrong. In the mean time remember we are all American. This would be a boring country if we all agreed.

    March 25, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  19. Lori, Houston Texas

    "I was heading into this event with the same strategy: make news on something unexpected".

    Well Ed, that says it all. You went into it "to make news" rather than to report the facts.

    That's why Americans hate the mainstream media so much these days. At least with You-Tube, I can see/hear what was actually said rather than what spin the media puts on it.

    March 25, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  20. Char59

    Mr. Henry, to most of us it sounded like you were trying to bully President Obama, but the President was too smart for you and he gave the best answer that did not put you into such a good light! Next time you should think and know what you are asking before speaking. President Obama really put you in your place and Americans were clapping!!!!

    March 25, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  21. Blake

    Ed Henry is as annoying as Sarah Palin. Stop trying to turn this into a front-page news story. The question was not a quality question a reporter of news should be asking (appropriate for 60 minutes, not at a news conference), and his tone was badgering and irritating. Before Obama even answered, I was getting annoyed at Mr. Henry. This is not news, CNN....stop trying to be like FOX.

    March 25, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  22. Film Professor

    Ed Henry is certainly not the first journalist to be so narcissistic as to focus on what kind of question he could ask at the press conference that would cause controversy and bring him the most attention.

    But frankly, it was really a stupid question, Ed. I'm sure that Obama was just as disgusted as all of us were the minute we heard about the outrageous bonuses at AIG, and ready in a verbal sense to draw and quarter these people in the public square. But Obama is determined to be inteliigent and thoughtful in how he responds to the problems of the day - is that really a problem for you? Don't we really want a man who thinks before he speaks as our President?

    And as I tell my students who want to be broadcast journalists (I am the Department Chair of a Film/Video program), ask the hard questions, but ask them fairly and don't try to compete with the person you are questioning for attention from the audience. That's not your job.

    March 25, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  23. Jewel

    Ed, happy to see that you noted that the Republicans are your friends.

    March 25, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  24. Samia Ahmed

    Ed Henry, you were NOT doing your job. You have been extremely arrogant in your coverage and your views against President Obama have been highlighted in all of your coverage. You would have asked intelligent questions like what does he plan to do next rather then (andn I hate to repeat this term) playing "gotcha journalism." You are insult to journalism and should go back to school and someone with a little more integrity should be the Sr. White House correspondent. For what you do, you belong on fox news, not CNN as you are an insult to fellow journalists Anderson Cooper and Wolf Blitzer and everyone other journalist out there. CNN, get rid of him as he seems like he is looking for the current administration to mess up so he can report it.

    March 25, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  25. Robert

    What value added did your question have? Can you answer that? Wheteher it was 1 day / a week / whatever!. Where were you while the Bush commandos were ruining the United States.? Where was your
    inuendos and criticism then?
    People don't want to hear your stupid questions that have no merit regardless of who originated them.
    Grow up – become professional!.

    March 25, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
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