June 28th, 2009
06:52 PM ET
2 years ago

Reliable Sources: Journos spar over Obama presser question


WASHINGTON (CNN) - Tensions flared between “new media” reporters and print and television journalists last Tuesday when President Obama called on Nico Pitney, HuffingtonPost.com national editor, to ask the second question during a news conference at the White House. The President has called on bloggers in the past but Obama seemed to be aware of the nature of Pitney's question, which the blogger had solicited from Iranians via the internet, before he even asked it.

On Reliable Sources Sunday, Howard Kurtz played the exchange and posed the question directly to Pitney: "You said the White House notified you that you would probably get a question. Everyone assumes what we just saw was orchestrated."

Pitney denied having planned out the exchange with the White House and said the criticism from other reporters stems from "jealousy" and "hypocrisy."

"From beginning to end, there was no planning involved," Pitney told Howard Kurtz.

Dana Milbank of The Washington Post, also on the panel with Pitney, wasn't buying the explanation.

"Nico, the night before, sent out an email to his colleagues saying, 'Some big news. The White House called earlier this evening and asked if I could ask a question of President Obama. I'm about to post a solicitation to the blog, Facebook/Twitter. It seems fairly likely that this is going to happen. I'm pretty sure it's going to happen, but it's not 100%.’ “

Milbank said he is not comfortable with the current relationship between the White House and parts of the press corps.

"The White House shouldn't be calling a person the night before, we are going to call on you if you ask a question on a particular question asked a certain way."

Pitney later said that given the situation, he wanted to make the most of it.

"When I found out the White House was going to potentially take this question, I went to a Farsi language social networking site… If I was going to have that opportunity, I was going to canvass as many Iranians as possible."

Another panelist, Amanda Carpenter of The Washington Times, contended that Pitney himself didn't do anything wrong, and that his question from an Iranian asking under which conditions Obama would accept the election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was a valid one. However, Carpenter blamed the White House for colluding with a member of the liberal press.

"The administration calling you beforehand, thinking you were probably going to ask something sympathetic, escorting you to the front of the pressroom to then ask a question in a place where everyone should get a fair crack at the President is unfair," Carpenter said.

For his part, Pitney dismissed accusations of collusion. "It would be a strange conspiracy, considering Obama dodged the question," Pitney said.

Kurtz responded, "Well, there's no guarantee you get an answer."

Updated: 3:46 p.m.

soundoff (204 Responses)
  1. Dave

    Dana Milbank continues to be a loser with little regard for the truth,

    June 28, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  2. katiec

    Every press conference was scripted by Bush. He answered all reporters questions with notes on his podium.
    The crowds at this speeches were hand picked, Bush supporters.
    If Huffington Post supports the president good. We need at least one media out there to weigh against the bias shown by CNN and others.

    June 28, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  3. Trina

    Of course they are. Just like DRUDGE is in bed with the Republicans and Fox News. Next subject.

    June 28, 2009 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  4. Mary the Democrat

    It sure seems like they are in bed.........the questions is who is using who?

    June 28, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  5. DaMaestro

    So what??

    June 28, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  6. therealmarie

    Why is CNN and Reliable Sources in bed with the GOP is the more realistic question.

    June 28, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  7. Zero.

    Huffin and Puffin in bed with the Elephant & Castle.

    June 28, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  8. manhandler

    CNN is just as guilty of bias in their approach to this man and his cohorts in Congress, as are most of the rest of the MSM. I've never seen anything like it in my lifetime and it is a dangerous situation. The press is supposed to keep a skeptical and critical eye on those in power in this country and most of our media have failed miserably and their actions are a disgrace to the idea of journalism. When an overpowering proportion of the media in any country sides with the powers that be, their reporting becomes nothing but propaganda and any dissent is stifled. Is this what we want for this country?

    June 28, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  9. 9corona

    YES THEY ARE! I removed them from my favorites and opted out of their NewsLetter – When Huffington was on Larry King last week and said, "the President is doing a good job with Iran AND how can we be sure the Iran protest pictures/film we are watching are not pro the election results".

    ** The above is in quotes – but I don't think that was her exact wording – but the intent was the same – there was also a comment that the internet and twitter weren't reliable sources for news.......... She's not in bed with the WH – she's wearing knee pads for them.

    June 28, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  10. Steve (the real one)

    ONLY the Huffingon Post??? I submit they are not the only ones! It a pretty big bed!

    June 28, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  11. ronnie

    no comments folks??? you'd think cnn and huffpo had the same readers....

    June 28, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  12. jt

    Why is 'State of the Union', 'Reliable Sources', Wolf Blitzer, and
    Campbell Brown in bed with the GOP?

    June 28, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  13. daniel

    Two words for conservatives with their panties in a bunch: Fox News. 'Nuff said. Have a nice day.

    June 28, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  14. girlymen love the GOP

    If they are, then John King is in bed with the GOP toewrestlers.

    June 28, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  15. MishaJohn

    I am a daily reader of several newspapers and a fan of (some) cable news, but good God, what a bunch of crybabies. This kind of hypocritical whining is why "traditional" media is foundering: having lost the edge to their Internet-based competitors, print and broadcast journalists' response is carp about a blogger getting a question. As if Kurtz, Milibank (who I like) and his ilk haven't enjoyed countless cocktail parties, dinners and informally choreographed exchanges with the politicians they cover. Here's a solution, Kurtz, et al: start asking hard-hitting, relevant questions for a change – imagine how much substance you could have covered in the time you spent complaining about Pitney (one of the best sources for hard news out of Iran in the last 2 weeks) getting a single question on a substantive issue. Sheesh.

    June 28, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  16. Paul from Kissimmee

    This isn't exactly news is it? I thought this was well known during the primaries. Even CNN. Doesn't anybody remember the debates. Even SNL was making fun of it. Give me something I don't already know.

    June 28, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  17. aware of nothing

    Dana is mad because Obama doesn't call on him for hard hitting questions like about Sanford....quit whining..now you know why print is going out of biz

    June 28, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  18. Lori, Houston Texas

    Two more words – Jeff Gannon.

    June 28, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  19. Anonymous

    Just another Obama Nation stunt.................Some day (soon) you idiot liberals who voted for him will see the real side of the chosen one.

    Assuming his handlers let you, of course.

    The Presbo isn't capable of an original thought. God help us though, because he's running the country.

    June 28, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  20. Butch Dillon

    Dana Millbank is hardly a representative of serious journalism, whether it's the legacy style in which he wallows or Nico Pitney's blogging faction. Pitney out shined the entire MSM in his coverage of Iran in recent weeks and deserved to have his question aired in Obama's presser.

    June 28, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  21. John

    Nico Pitney was encouraged to ask a question because of his intense and excellent coverage of the Iran election fallout and because of his connection with bloggers and civilian reporters in Tehran. The White House should be commended for seeking questions from people who are the most knowledgeable.

    June 28, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  22. timkens

    President Obama chose to solicit a question about Iran - not a specific question, just one that he knew would be about Iran - from one of the only American media voices who was actually COVERING Iran in a serious, credible way.

    What's wrong with that?

    In case you didn't notice, one of the things Obama accomplished by doing this - and the thing he was probably most interested in accomplishing - was to send a clear message to the Iranian people: "We see you. We hear you. We know"

    Don't get your knickers in a knot, Dana Milbank. Sometimes it's not ABOUT you.

    June 28, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  23. America Shrugged

    I don't know if Obama WH is in bed with Huffington Post journalists. I see many articles on that site that are at odds with much of what Obama is doing. They have a better handle on unbiased reporting than the MSM.

    June 28, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  24. Mark,B'ham,Al.

    With the bias in journalism that started to blossom in the 70's I have learned to listen too and read both sides so I can make my own judgements. It is too bad most on the fringes only listen to one side. Even during the Viet Nam War you could tell the bias of the media including Water Cronkite, the news was not just facts like it should be.

    June 28, 2009 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  25. Cynthia in Michigan

    Are these "journalists" serious? I worked for a major metropolitan newspaper in the 1970s and we always told beforehand when our Washington Bureau chief was going to get tossed a question.

    June 28, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
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