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. cyndy c.

    response to John

    Bush already sank us!! where have you been for the last 8 wonderful years????????????????????????????????????
    Thank God for Obama.

    Remember he is trying to fix 8 years of "look the other way" failed policies. Remember Katrina, 9/11?

    March 25, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  2. Kurt C.

    What a lousy answer Obama gave. "I like to know what I'm talking about before I speak" or some such crap. When you know what you're talking about that will be the first time since you took the oath.

    March 25, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  3. worriedmom

    I support Ed Henry and think the question was appropriate. What you negative people here on this post dont like is that he was put on the spot and how was he gonna wiggle his way out of this one. I feel he knew what was going on with AIG, just got caught. Funny how all of you Obama groupies hate it when someone tries to question your Leader. Just chill, take your Valium and drink your Kool-Aid

    March 25, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  4. Kevin

    I am so sorry President Obama, for someone who is evidently ignorant, to waste your 60 minutes of time on wasteless questions

    March 25, 2009 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  5. Winston

    After waching the exchange a 2nd time. I think President Obama was pretty restraint in his answer after the disrespectful tone and demeanor of which Mr Ed ask the question. It was almost as if Mr Ed was talking down to the President.

    March 25, 2009 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |
  6. Brian Crooks

    I find it troubling that he came to the press conference not to ask a question to get to the bottom of an issue or to add substance or clarify a pending policy proposal, but to ask a "provocative" question. There's nothing provocative about asking for specifics on the energy plan or asking for specifics about Tim Geithner's bank plan that was released on Monday, but these are actually NEWSWORTHY topics. But you said it yourself, you weren't interested in asking anything substantive, just trying to get the most provocative question you could. Why not just ask him about his birth certificate or his wife's "proud" comments? This is a joke; you blew it.

    March 25, 2009 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  7. Jamf

    Noticed the red/white tie maybe he's ..no he is showing his colors... Henry where were all your hard hitting front row questions during the Bush administration? The President answered your question directly and appropriately and in my opinion you were shamed and your snarky response only confirms my belief. Be prepared and ask better questions next time but leave the emotions at home.

    March 25, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  8. Joan , Ontario

    Ed Henry was definitely showboating last night but it's not his first time. He leaves the meaty, important questions to more experienced reporters and always tries to start some kind of controversy. It's a pattern with him and he could lose his credibility altogether. Perhaps Candy Crowley or Susanne Malveau could cover the White House. They seem to really grasp the important issues. The AIG problems had been rehashed over and over already and it is time to move on , By the way, President Obama did not seem to show any anger to me. He just gave the question the short answer it deserved so they could move on the something more important. Show some respect and confidence in the President and help your country recover.

    March 25, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  9. maxx Atlanta GA

    President Obama answered the question, so whats the problem?????

    March 25, 2009 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  10. ns

    Its cool that he asked the question, and its was cool that the President told he wants to make sure he knows what he is talking about before he speaks. Thats called EDUCATED!!!!

    I LOVE OBAMA SOCK IT TO THEM

    March 25, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  11. C S N

    "...why Obama waited days to express outrage on the AIG bonuses?"
    Well, let's see.... Express ones self....
    Maybe there are deep-rooted reasons....
    Or...
    Maybe China called in their bonds, or Russia was sending missiles to Iran, or Pakistan was sending guns across the border to the Taliban, or ..
    Drug-lords were killing/kidnapping on US southern borders....
    SOMETHING a BIT MORE IMPORTANT???
    Ya' think?

    March 25, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  12. Barb Lucas

    Can't believe the posts I am reading defending the President. HIs answer WAS evasive. One does not have to be asleep at the wheel to understand of course he knew about those bonuses. His advisors do not keep the President of the United States in the dark. I do not wish to slam him-he is our President, but he has a DUTY to respond to the American people, not do the Texas Two Step.

    Further can't believe one of the above posts really fell for that "well, let's give them a bonus to keep them....we gotta have good people around us....." Perhaps you have not read about the jobless, the homeless, those without healthcare. Their money, along with yours, was what made those bonuses happen.

    Anyone read the story about the Emperor's New Clothes?

    March 25, 2009 05:04 pm at 5:04 pm |
  13. Rafterman

    Ed, don't try to match wits with the president. You are unarmed.

    March 25, 2009 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  14. Rhoda from Harrisburg, PA

    ed henry – get over yourself – you were unprepared with your question and got a clear answer from an inteelligent President able to multi-think on his feet. What a small thing to call news.

    March 25, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  15. KC

    I am stunned what the big deal is? President Obama answered Ed Henry with a short answer and from that there is all this talk on the 24/7 cable shows that Obama got ticked off... One Rep. even went as far as to say this guy will be a one term president probably. WHAT are you media people on? Stop the nonsense and report the news and honestly who cares what your (meaning the media's) opinions are?

    March 25, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  16. Rafterman

    CNN is obviously playing politics with their posting policy.

    Trying to minimize the negativity toward Mr. Henry.

    March 25, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  17. mb-texas

    Watched the news conference listen to the cotcha questions but
    as Henry said they are just doing their job.My wife commented to me
    what stupid questions.

    March 25, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  18. D.A.R.

    To John. Overgeneralize much? What do you mean "people of my ilk?" You don't know me. I always referred to President Bush as just that, President Bush. Not a very good response.

    March 25, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  19. CJ in FL

    Boy, you guys can't take any type of criticism aimed at Mr. Obama. You attack the messenger EVERY TIME.

    March 25, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  20. Pat

    What Ed Henry displayed was misguided youthful exuberance and he got an ppropriate "smack down" response. It's all good. Next time Ed, be properly prepared. You're in the major league now. Clearly President Obama doesn't suffer fools lightly. You've been warned.

    March 25, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  21. seanwhit

    You really do take yourself seriously don't you. The description of your moment and your audible really reflect the utter lack of intellect present in journalism today and the complete disconnect with the rest of America. We seek substance and the dialogue the next day is how you handled your question and what papers were not called upon. Thank God for the blogs because the beltway media and cable channels have become a parody of themselves; no wonder the next generation is getting their news from the comedy channel it is not as funny as you self indulgent idiots. Report the news and quit trying to make it; maybe if you followed this principal during the Bush years we would not have been lied into going to war.

    March 25, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  22. Jake

    I was thinking that possibly the Obama administration deliberately used the clause deliberately to allow the bonuses slip through so they could stir outrage with the American people, thus giving more weight to their request for more power over institutions they currently don't have. Just a thought

    March 25, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  23. WhoCares?

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

    Yes..That tide that gave President Obama a 64% approval rating this week even in these disasterous times.

    That tide? Gotcha!! Ahhh the Republican Education at its finest.

    March 25, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  24. Lori from Delaware

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

    Mr. Henry said it himself....he wanted to make news.

    March 25, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  25. SAM

    I think this is the most stupid and made-up controversy I have ever seen. Clearly the President got miffed at the accusatory tone of the reporter. Watch the exchange closely and you see that the president does not get angry when he presses the AIG question again. He gets angry when the guy starts accusing that the NY attny. general is doing more than him on this. And I think it was a perfect and justified reply from Obama.

    In any case CNN should probably fire this guy and try and remain a moderate voice rather than turn into a Fox news or MSNBC who keep trying to raise controversies out of nothing. I am actually looking forward to seeing how Jon Stewart covers this exercise in stupidity on Monday.

    March 25, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
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