March 25th, 2009
12:25 PM ET
6 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. Craig

    It is interesting that Ed Henry admits up front that his purpose was to choose a question that would "make news on something unexpected," as opposed to asking a question which might spark an answer helpful to the audience listening to the press conference. I also was amused by CNN's predictable response of making Ed's question the lead story of its coverage. That Ed isn't even trying to hide his ambition to be the story is I guess admirable in its own right (although he shouldn't fool himself into thinking he was just doing his job). But CNN playing along is a real shame, and hilariously self-promotional.

    March 25, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  2. renea

    Ed Henry had every right to ask whatever he wanted.but he got what he was not expecting from the president. which i think was a good answer.

    March 25, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  3. Zion

    Ed Henry's question was fine, and President Obama's response was fine.

    March 25, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  4. lil

    It wasnt what you asked, it was the tone that you used when you asked the question. It was as if you were angry and disrespectful and you seemed a little out of place. I was plan out of place.

    March 25, 2009 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  5. Mac

    Good for you, Ed Henry!
    The President made you look like a fool.
    "Because I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak".

    You thought the POTUS is someone like you that don't think before you ask a stupid question.

    March 25, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  6. Philip

    Ed Henry's agenda was clear from the outset. It appeared as if he was more interested in himself and being the big story rather than truly questioning the President. You could see it in his demeanor, clothes, attitude, etc. Nice try Ed Henry, you are not a star.

    March 25, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  7. kamasri

    Ed, I liked your question... the follow up question could have been worded more tactfully . Your body language seemed confrontational. And i believe that his response was directed at GOP lawmakers , who have shown a strong tendency, in my view, to talk without knowing the subject.

    March 25, 2009 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  8. kd

    Only five responses to this (now six). Not news. Who cares.

    Is Henry's sad attempt at 'journalism' and others like it one factor in why newspapers are failing? Read the five comments prior – all make good points.

    March 25, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  9. BJ

    Ed, are you trying to blame Wolf for making you look like an idiot last night?

    People talk about President's Obama expression, play back the look that Ed Henry had on his face when the President put him in place.

    March 25, 2009 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  10. gerry

    Ed Henry should go back to work as a gossip columist. It was very clear last night, he can't cut it as a political reporter.

    The next time, Ed you think about asking all these gotcha questions, just remember the President is a whole lot smarter and more prepared on every issue than you are.

    By the way, next time ask a question of relevence.

    March 25, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  11. C S N

    Ed Henry of CNN was going for the "gotcha" question.
    He desperately wanted a catchy headline blurb...
    Even got 'whiny' about it...

    President Obama ...1
    Ed Henry..................0

    March 25, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  12. ken

    A) It's called a monopoly. Monopolies are bad.
    B) They've been running our country for 130 years, therefore, most domestic problems are their fault. Time for change.

    March 25, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  13. BJ

    Take a look at Mr. Henry's expression in this picture...a look of defeat. The President calmly said, "next question"

    March 25, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  14. Do your nose hurt, Ed?

    This is what we have read from Ed Henry? Quite frankly, Ed, nobody cares about your hurt feelings.

    You asked a stupid question and you got popped in the mouth.

    Now you use the bullhorn that your producers gave you out of company loyalty to spout the most inconsequential dribble.

    Sit in the back row next time, you fool.

    March 25, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  15. Paul from Phoenix

    I think this is the first time Obama was actually challenged for ducking a question. Maybe there wasn't enough time to load it into the teleprompter.

    March 25, 2009 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  16. Ron

    Dude, you got punked! Plain and simple, you got shut down and made to look the fool with egg on his face. What did you think the President would say? Something stupid like "I don't know"? I bet you thought you had him going....didn't you? That's why you followed up with attitude and a disrespectful tone. Of course the repubs liked it. You were their pawn for the moment. Life is a game of chess, my friend. You showed yourself to be a really good checkers player. BUT, totally out matched in the game at hand!

    March 25, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  17. Mia and Mike

    Ed, you got your tush handed to you by the President of the United States :)! Come on dude, you gotta admit you had it coming with asking such a question in such a snarkly way TWICE. We all heard you the first time you asked it, and it was sarcastic then, yet even more so when you asked it yet again. Look at this way- you're famous now as everyone knows your name and what you look like :).

    Oh, and as for Wolf, I just don't know what has happened to my once highly admired buddy. I use to be a huge fan of his and watched him fatihfully up until these last two months. Lately he has become as rude and brash as Campbell Brown (who by the way has throughly disappointed me for about six months now). Hope you guys get it more together soon.

    March 25, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  18. Shaila

    Ed Henry is a pompous, egotistical individual who cannot put his query to President Obama respectfully. He got the answer he deserved. CNN should think many times over before having the likes of Ed Henry. He and Lou Dobbs are self-centred and cannot handle themselves professionally. And then to add insult to the injury CNN kept replaying that clip as if it were a badge of honour. Give us a break! People right, left and centre are getting turned right off CNN.

    March 25, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  19. Barbara

    Ed, since you noted that the Republicans are your friends, all we (Democrats) ask is that you respect our President.

    March 25, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  20. Eric

    I, like the President, prefer to know what I am talking about before speaking on a topic, especially if, as is the case with the President, what I say will be dissected and analyzed endlessly in the, and I use the term begrudingly, "news."

    March 25, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  21. sherry

    That's called a back-atcha

    You tried to pull a fast one on the president and he came back with a great answer.

    I just wish Bush would of done the same thing when he was in office......Maybe then he would'nt have looked and sounded like a imbicel.

    March 25, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  22. ceedee

    The last thing we need is Ed Henry doing a post-mortem on his question. You would think that the senior white house correspondent would be ready to ask a meaningful question, no matter at what point the President called on him. He deserved exactly what Obama gave him for a meaningless question, nothing more, nothing less.

    March 25, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  23. sherry

    That's called a back-atcha

    You tried to pull a fast one on the president and he came back with a great answer.

    I just wish Bush would of done the same thing when he was in office......Maybe then he would'nt have looked and sounded like a f-o-o-l

    March 25, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  24. Jo

    I don't know what your comment about recieving the same amount of support and discontent from the republican and democratic sides is supposed to prove.

    Your job as a reporter seems far more important than balancing the opinions of both sides. There is a complex economic crisis in place. You need to help the President clarify his program. If the republicans have a plan, you can do the same.

    The presses job is not gotcha. It is information. I see that CNN is losing audience. As a person who watches very little of your channel any longer, it is this kind of activity that pushes me other places.

    +.

    .......00000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000000

    March 25, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  25. Gman

    With days to prepare for this news conference, and being fortunate enough to even be selected to ask a question, the best effort that Ed Henry can come up with is a ‘gotcha’ question intended not to enlighten but fuel the media driven AIG bonus populist rage storyline that they insist is so important to the public. I understand why the prez may have been a little annoyed. Ed is lucky. A less cool president might have thrown a shoe at him.

    March 25, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
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