March 25th, 2009
12:25 PM ET
5 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. girdie

    I love how you , Ed, and CNN are making this out to be such a dramatic face off. lol!!

    It was nothing. I was expecting the media to really go at Obama, and in the end: nothing.

    It was so anti-climatic.

    You asked a question, he said he likes to think about things before he comments, and the press giggled. Wow.

    I have seen more drama in a Robert Gibbs press briefing between him and Jack Tapper (I think that is his name).

    You guys at CNN are really reaching. Nice try,

    March 25, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  2. NICK

    Ed Henry, ia a hack reporter who like others on the CNN payroll should be working for FOX NEWS. This "gotcha" questioning, is insulting and reflective of ill mannered and unprepared reporters.
    Perhaps a show of respect and decency is beyond your narrow mind approach to reporting the news rather then trying to "make" the news.

    March 25, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  3. proud army navy mom

    Go back to journalism school, Ed. The press is supposed to report the news, NOT make news

    You were out of line in referring to the President's daughter's.

    Funny I don't remember you questions Bush on how his policies affected his daughter's. Did you think it was ok because our President is black.

    March 25, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  4. Ron Thibodeau

    Go Get 'Em, Ed! I voted for Obama, and I support his decisions (thus far). That being said, after 8 years of 'softball' questions from the press to former President Bush, it was nice to see SOMEONE from the press ask a 'tough question'.

    Do I think Ed was 'smacked down'? No, not as bad as some media outlets are portraying it. It was also good to see that Obama gave as good as he got.

    More straight talk questions, and more non scripted answers make me very happy.

    March 25, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  5. srnance

    I have resorted to completely turning off CNN lately because of all the constant negative comments about our President. You have ceased to report the NEWS and have resorted to editorialize on practically everthing the President does (and according to you nothing he does is O K!). As far as my family and I are concerned, you have morphed into another Fox News. They say they are "fair and balanced" but everyone knows they are anti-Obama and therefore anti-American. With that said, the question Ed Henry asked does not surprise me and fortunately neither did the answer from our more than astute and capable President.

    March 25, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  6. D.A.R.

    P.S. I'm also sick to death of you jerks referring to our President as Obama, with total disrespect. Grow up. Show some respect. You sure don't deserve any.

    March 25, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  7. Truth Teller

    Boy Ed that is one delusional accont of last nights events

    March 25, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  8. Yolanda of NJ

    Ed Henry got what he deserved....a short curt answer to something that has been overwhelming the news that most people struggling day after day can give a rat's tail about. While I usually give him props for his coverage, he thought he was Jake Tapper for a minute and became confrontational over something the President has spoken about time after time. Move one and cover the American people care about and that is HealthCare, Jobs, Energy

    March 25, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  9. Enderlyn from Toronto

    Ed, you got what you deserved. You are not the news and the American people are smarter than you think. DISGUSTING!!!

    March 25, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  10. Karol

    I am so sick of news reporters who ask questions in a hostile fashion, knowing full well that the response may or may not be answered in the same manner that it was asked. If they get the response they are seeking, they get pissed off. If you can't handle the return fire, then they need to get out of the game, because you get what you give. I am a fan of Ed Henry's but I think he acted like a spoiled child, when the president responded sarcastically to his question. Well, what did he expect? Isn't that what he wanted, so that he could back to his colleagues and "boast" about how tough he was with his questioning. I am really sick of this, although the question was relevant, I just feel that sometimes with this endless competition between cable network "to score the big one", they go too far. Ed Henry was "very annoyed and really angry". Well, the president had the same right to be just as annoyed as he was. I'm still a fan of Ed Henry, but he needs to check his ego at the door in these situations, because apparently this is the way the News is gathered these days.

    March 25, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  11. Michelle

    Mr. Henry

    You should be ashamed of yourself, based on your performance last night. How dispicable and disrespectful can you be? And to include the President's daughter's in your attempt at "gotcha"? Pathetic.

    The fact that you were hurridley trying to prepare your question does not excuse your lack of professionalism. The fact is , this press conference wa announced days ago, unlike the previous administration that would only provide hours notice prior to press time.

    The other journalists in the romm LAUGHED AT YOU! That's how ridiculous you sounded. And no amount of spin by you or your colleagues can rectify the fact that your journalistic instinct was found wanting last night and I hope that from here on out you take time..like President obama..to think and know what your talking about before you speak!

    March 25, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  12. ty

    ED HENRY! Common enough with your childish behavior! we saw u acting like a arrogant,spoiled brat last night! good to see mr.Obama put you in place? btw where did u get your journalism degree from?

    March 25, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  13. jm

    Boy he sounds like Charles Gibson with his gotcha questions.

    March 25, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  14. Samia Ahmed

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    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 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  15. Cheryl Tx

    Ed sometimes it is best to keep your mouth shut!!!

    March 25, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  16. leosgirl

    I was watching last nite and I am no critic of journalists or anything just a regular american sitting at home watching this press confrence. I have to tell you that you came off very angry and you lacked respect for the man you were speaking with. He did answer your question even if it wasn't the answer you wanted to hear. I was very happy with the way he handled you. You need to do what he does think before you speak it will get you further in your career than your gotcha questions and grandstanding on display last nite. Hope this was helpful to you.

    March 25, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  17. JOANN

    Sorry ED...you got what you deserved.....You newsreporters need to know that YOU ARE DEALING WITH AN INTELLIGENT MAN...who thinks quick on his feet.....

    Remember, he was taught as a child to study hard and his Mom kept him in the books....You ED HENRY are no match for President Obama, so stop trying to challenge him!!!!

    March 25, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  18. Rafterman

    Ed, in a battle of wits with the president you are unarmed. You were pawned. LOL!

    March 25, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  19. Dwight Frye

    I love it! All the Obots here are now turning on their newsmaster CNN! They're biting the hand that feeds them!

    Now don't get angry at Ed Henry for asking a relevant question, or CNN who employs him. It was an "accident" (lol), and CNN will return quickly with their usual agenda of "cover for and protect Obama at all costs".

    Hmmmmm.....unless of course CNN has sensed the nation's tide turning against the messiah, and is changing it's reporting slant!

    March 25, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  20. Jean

    As the daughter of a long-retired print journalist I have a lot of respect for the role of the media. Maybe it's because of the needs of 24 hour news networks and websites, but I'm frustrated by the tone lately, the jumping on every twitch and word...it's distracting and disheartening. There's a long, tough road ahead; maybe longer and tougher than most of us have wanted to admit. In these times I'd rather see questions that relate to big-picture analysis.

    March 25, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  21. Steve in Bedford, TX

    The problem with cable news networks now is that they have become platforms for producing celebrity news reporters who become bigger than the story or event they are reporting on.
    Henry is just another publicity seeking reporter who asked a completely irrelevant question.
    CNN no longer stands for news. It stands for Celebrity Noise Network.

    March 25, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  22. turner

    Is there any way Ed could be replaced!

    March 25, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  23. Melody

    Ed your smack down last night was great. Your gotcha question is why I stopped watching CNN 9 months ago. Hey CNN how's your ratings these days? Let me guess, in the tank. (ha)

    March 25, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  24. Ben

    Ed, I think Obama showed remarkable restraint by not picking up the podium and throwing it at you for asking such a stupid question. One which has already been covered waaaaaaaay more than it should have been.

    Please go to Fox News, and take your unwarranted sense of self-importance with you.

    March 25, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  25. lilacs

    President Obama put Ed henry in his plaice. Where were this Question when bush and the republicans were running this country down the toilet? They were to busy reporting on spears and lohan. We now have a real leader,get use to cnn and your sister station fox news.

    March 25, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
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