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. NV, NYC

    Why democrats so protective of their idol? He is still capable to stand for himself.

    March 25, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  2. Karen in San Leandro, Ca

    How pathetic for Ed Henry to admittedly go into a press conference "primetime" unprepared to ask the President of the United States a question worthy of an answer. CNN ought to be ashamed to send someone so childish with gotcha questions or should I say "Winging It?". We are fortunate to have a President thoughtful enough to think (yes) and question before he speaks and not shot from the hip like the cowboy we were stuck with for 8 years. Which by the way CNN throw soft ball questions with no follow up in return, Let this be a lesson Ed, maybe you should be more like President Obama "know what you are talking about" or in your case questioning before you chose to open your mouth and look the fool.

    March 25, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  3. Nancy

    I have always like Ed Henry. However, I think what you saw was a President that is faced with incredible problems and issues that impact every American. The fact is he was there to talk about plans and hopes for the present and the future. I am so tired of "the type of journalism" that continues to focus on stuff that in the scope of the problem mean nothing. The time that was spent on the news on AIG was unbelieable. I too do not like the bonuses, however, I listed to the hearing with Mr. Liddy and he said over and over again "these bonuses were set last year to retain people to stay long enough with a failing company to help FIX the problem. The huge majority of these people did not cause the financial fiasco. Most of those people have left with their millions. MOVE ON CNN! Focus on the positive, more than some "gotcha" stuff.

    March 25, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  4. edith in oregon

    Ed Henry was disrespectable to the president, it was apparent that he was trying to score points with his conservative friends. He is not a substantive reporter and looks for ways to score, What a disappointment CNN has become. I love MSNBC, In addition,Bob Bennett's comment that the reporters asked tough questions was actually amusing. I suppose they were so programmed from the previous light-weight questioning techniques during the Bush era, they have forgotten how to ask or use high-level thinking skill questions. To CNN, your dislike of this President has become increasingly apparent.

    March 25, 2009 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  5. KLK

    So, Ed. Did you get what you wanted? Did CNN give you your own show?

    March 25, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  6. Case W.

    "The press treats President Obama like the enemy, giving no respect and acting like his answers cannot be be trusted or truthful." That is a complete lie, Obama has been treated way better than any president in my lifetime. They will not even attempt to delve into his politics or criticize his actions. The media has been a complete failure in honestly publicizing Obama's agenda.

    March 25, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  7. Tiffany

    Ed Henry was out of line. President Obama had answer many times over why he did not come out right away to answer AIG Situation. Ed Henry was showing out!!! Iam glad President Obama put him in his place. Where was Ed Henry when Bush was in office? Bush is the one, these reporter needed to ask questions But these reporter failed to do there job!!! with the Bush Administration. Had the reporters done thier job we would of not be in these mess. President Obama is trying to help us out of this whole

    March 25, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  8. VA.gg

    So this is what we are discussing. The merits of a non question.
    Do you need the sanction of John Q .Public ? I can't believe Ed or CNN has set the bar for political discord so low. The POTUS answered the question, I don't find that Gotcha, or memorable.Please
    try to be prepared with some exploritory data for the next press exchange.

    March 25, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  9. john

    you people are really amazing.

    CNN = in the tank for OBAMA.

    @D.A.R. – he will continue to be called OBAMA for his 4-year term. Get over yourself, really. You and your ilk chose not to show Bush respect for the last 8 years, please stop the gainsaying, really.

    Ed Heny is a lightweight, like every other "reporter" that was picked to ask questions...lightweights, in the tank, lobbing softballs to Obama and his binky (read teleprompter or plasma take your pick).

    Time to face facts people, you voted for the guy that should be the press secretary, not the president. He is in over his head and he is going to sink us like a 9.6 trillion pound anchor.

    March 25, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  10. Moment of truth

    This is another reason why Cnn continues to lose viewers in droves to shows such as Keith olbermann and Rachel Madow. Cnn tries to fabricate the news instead of just reporting it.

    Ed Henry got exactly what he deserves from President Obama. Next time show a bit more respect and definitely more journalistic integrity, unless you are yearning for another presidential smackdown in front of your "peers" and the whole world.

    March 25, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  11. Alexander

    Irma from North Carolina –

    I agree with you completely. But I also think that CNN is FOX NEWS Channel – 2. However, Ed Henry and Lou Dobbs should also take with them Anderson Cooper who proved one more time yesterday how rude he is to the President.

    March 25, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  12. Tom

    It is a shame that President Obama wasted a good news event on such a stupid question. I tuned to CNN up till about
    a month ago when it appeared to me that I was not getting a
    proper picture. Plus I got tired of hearing "The best polictical team on Television."

    March 25, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  13. CJ

    It was refresing to hear an intelligent man speak. I can not believe that Ed Henry would even ask that question, Obama is working as hard as he can to help us all and we get stupid questions like this. Obama has done more than Bush ever did in his 8 years in office.

    March 25, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  14. P. Y.

    Ed Henry, you acted like a jerk and got exactly what you deserved. I used to love CNN but find myself going elsewhere these days.

    March 25, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  15. Witch Hunt

    It appears CNN is on a witch hunt specifically target to UNDERMINE our President.

    I'm quite sure most of the reporters and news anchors are Republicans. However, it does not matter. Our President has the greater ONE guiding him. Say what you will, but know this "he who laughs first; laughs last"

    All of your Republicans with the "GOLIATH" spirit will FALL!

    March 25, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  16. baker

    I am old enough to remember "real" jounalism. It wasn't pretty, it didn't play favorites, it tried above all to tell the truth. Until we can get a news media that isn't out to get good ratings, that isn't afraid of telling the truth whether it favors one side or the other (and some times neither side comes off looking too great), then all we are going to have is more of the same. Please President Obama, if you want the people to know what you are doing: 1. break up the media monopolies and 2. every bill should be written in simple English. Can you imagine turning on the television and finding out what is really going on? Boggles the imagination doesn't it?

    March 25, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  17. Ethel from Florida

    I agree...go to Fox news and take Lou Dobbs, Jessica Yellin, Dana Bash and Campbell Brown with you. I would include John King, Wolf Blitzer and some of the others, but they show some respect for the president once in awhile and I should underscore once in awhile. I have been watching MSNBC instead of CNN. They are more to my liking. I do bring up the ticker to see how biased they are in their thinking. It doesn't raise my blood pressure as much.

    March 25, 2009 04:35 pm at 4:35 pm |
  18. Jean

    Reading responses, I'm concerned by the hostility shown towards Ed Henry. During his campaign Obama more than once said, "We can disagree without being disagreeable." I'd sure like to see more of that.

    The media has a role in this, though. It encouraged AIG 'outrage'. People are upset. Why fan the flames?

    March 25, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  19. 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. Why is CNN not posting my post??????????

    March 25, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  20. Bill Gordon

    Ed ,I just read your comment on your disgaceful perfomance lastnight, thanks for confirming that you went to a press confrence with the President totally unprepaired. Boy did it show ! You should be fired.

    March 25, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  21. Lynn

    Thank you for asking the question. It is something that I was wondering myself. I believe the President was criticizing Cuomo because Cuomo was on the ball at the start. So far AIG has returned 50 million in bonuses because of Cuomo. Again President Obama has fallen short of his promises to the American people.

    March 25, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  22. Bev

    Ed henry, if you put some medication on that you should feel better in no time. LIke most of the bloggers here, I am turned off by CNN , Lou Dobbs and company and seldom watch you. Your coverage and topic are to say the least very negative and all doom and gloom about this new administration. Kudos to President Obama who did not take the bite to your "provocative" question". People are suffering, living under bridges, choosing between heat and food and you are worried about timelines on getting the information. How did your question help anybody who is sitting without a job or healthcare? Seriously!

    March 25, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  23. Wade

    Come one CNN... quit playing politics with the moderation of posts.

    Irma in North Carolina March 25th, 2009 1:31 pm ET

    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.
    ————————————————————————————————-
    You want Obama cheerleaders to fill you with fluff pieces instead of reporters who, with good reason, don't take every word out of Obama's mouth at face value. Go watch Chris Matthews on MSNBC.
    He just LOVES Obama.

    I find it funny that everyone bashes CNN as being anti-Obama, yet they are the only news organization I've found that reports from BOTH sides.

    Are they "fair and balanced"? As a whole, I would say yes.
    They have journalists who lean one way or another in their reporting, and that is a good thing.

    The problem with FOX and MSNBC, is they only report with one political slant or another. They have no diversity in their reporting.
    You never get to see it from both sides.

    Once you start agreeing with everything being reported by a particular news agency is the moment you know you're not getting the whole story.

    Now lets see if the CNN moderators are as "Fair and Balanced" as they reporters are.

    March 25, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  24. Ignorance

    Maybe Obama should have whined about it like Sarah Palin and the republicans would now love him.... you betcha! You know the gotcha media blah blah blah and I didn't answer cause those questions weren't what the American people wanted to here blah blah..wink...

    March 25, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  25. jeff @ MA

    Obama's only human, he can get annoyed at a question that was openly putting him in a tough spot. CNN is making more out this than it should.

    March 25, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
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