June 28th, 2009
06:52 PM ET
3 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. Jean 2

    This sounds like a response from imature teens or pre-teens on the playground. The sad part is that it is coming from "legimate" journalists.

    Our times need mature investigation!!!!

    June 28, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  2. Hope they're being safe

    It seems to have beyond just sleeping together...

    June 28, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  3. Coby

    Here we go again. Another article in the "mainstream" media criticizing President Obama, in which the pretense is about an "open media" and "transparency," but the subtext is obvious–racism, pure and simple.

    Frankly, the media owe it to this country to move us forward, not push us back. Therefore, they should be supportive of our leader and His policies. This constant questioning is so transparent to anyone with half a brain, and these "negative nellies" should find a new line of work. They're not acting in service to our President, and they're not acting in service to us. At least Mr. Pitney has displayed that he IS in service to our President–and therefore our country–and is evolved enough as a person not to engage in racist pettiness.

    June 28, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  4. Marilyn

    Of course they are in bed with him. So is CNN and especially MSNBC. In fact, all the press conferences are staged. Everything Obama does is staged. Making speeches is his only real talent.

    Yes, W's events were also staged. I don't know why they even bother having these phony "events". Nothing is ever learned from them.

    June 28, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. Commen Sense Reality Check

    Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck ~ must be a duck!

    Sounds like they sure are and it is quite DISGUSTING! There is nothing unbiased about providing and/or screening questions beforehand. This is not the government I want for my country!!!!!

    June 28, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  6. Wolves 4 Palin Charlotte, NC

    Reliable Sources: Is the Huffington Post in bed with the WH?

    No but Dana and her sweetie John K are in bed with the GOP. The Huffington Press is hiking on the Appalachian Trail

    June 28, 2009 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  7. MARK

    BOO HOO! Come On now repubs.... did you forget about bush already? all his town meetings were fixed with people before hand and they didnt even ask questions half the time they just made comments about how great of a job he was doing! funny how the repubs forget everything so quickly...Cheney going on Fox to get his point across first.... give me a break you hypocrates! Republican short term memory is INSULTING TO THE HUMAN RACE! ENOUGHT! PRINT IS GOING AWAY! GET OVER IT!

    June 28, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  8. Barney

    So just because you claim Bush did it, Obama can do it. Remember the outrage when it was discovered that Bush did this at one talk. The liberals, CNN, Huff Post, hate filled Daily Kos, ignorant radical Keith Olberman and others were livid, why aren't they livid now? Its because its a Dem doing it and in the minds of liberals/dems they can do whatever the hell they want and its OK. Pathetic display by liberals/dems who whined and cried when Bush did it but are conveniently silent now.

    June 28, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  9. js -----santee

    manhandler.......watch john king, cambell brown, lou dobbs or wolf blitzer if you think cnn panders to President Obama....and then if you really want to hear Bad News Obama 24 hours a day watch fox news. They have dedicated their entire station to bashing the Democractic Party.

    June 28, 2009 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  10. Art

    Questions have been "planted" in White House news conferences for decades. Chances are just about every politician who ever held a news conference has done something similar. What is important is the answers given by the President, not who asks a question.

    June 28, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  11. AnPprof

    Can you say "State-Run-Media" ?

    Glad to see that some journalists still have some standards.

    June 28, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  12. Barry

    Did nobody else notice that the question from the Huffington Post was the most adversarial, challenging question of the entire press conference?

    June 28, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  13. amy

    This sounds like sour grapes over Nico Pitney's nationally recognized coverage of the trouble in Iran. Howard, jealous much?

    June 28, 2009 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  14. Mary in Georgia

    They don't call on 'traditional media' because 'traditional media' asks terrible questions about what Obama thinks of some governor's affair. Or what Obama thinks about Manny Ramirez being suspended from MLB. Or what Obama thinks on the American Idol finale.

    When I go to CNN.com and one headline is about a 'school zone' sign being misprinted as a 'sochol zone', or 'Dog eats bag of pot, gets high' then that's about the end. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC need to be embarrassed that they cover that sort of stuff all the time.

    Michael Jackson made some great music, had some terrible moments, but five days of this stuff is too much. At least the Iran coverage was actually relevant and important. The events in Iran are the sort of thing CNN was made for.

    June 28, 2009 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  15. didi

    where is Fox news when they sing swan song for GOP........???

    June 28, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  16. Rich

    Somebody is jealous and we all know who.

    June 28, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  17. Liberals lack honesty

    Huffington Post, CBS, ABC, NBC, MSNBC are all in bed with the Whitehouse. One question that I am still waiting to be answered....Why are my taxes going up since I am middle income making less than $250,000? Obama has lied to the country.

    June 28, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  18. Lynn

    Mainstream has been mad for a long time not that bloggers and Internet reporters have been out reporting them AND are now allowed at these Press conferences.

    The funny thing is that mainstream doesn't realize it has lost a lot of credibility because of FIX News, CNN and WSJ.

    They act like they are really reporting the news without bias! Hah! Even WE know better.

    June 28, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  19. Hugo

    Good Lord, could it be? Do you think? If Obama farted in bed at night, Michelle would say PU, ABC would say what smells, CNN would say "not me" and George Soros would say quiet down there!

    June 28, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  20. JDB

    It makes sense to allow a blogger/reporter that has had contact with people in Iran ask a question posed by Iranians. Nico has done some exceptional reporting on the situation in Iran – much better than what I've seen from the biggies in the msm.

    Stop trying to make an issue out of nothing.

    June 28, 2009 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  21. Claudia in Houson

    Who cares, it's about the economy and not about a bunch of cry babies who don't get their way. Get over it.

    June 28, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  22. observer

    Stupid,stupid ; how do you think Obama got elected? The fawning press!

    June 28, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  23. Phil

    Well, well, well. CNN finally has some bi-partisan news reporting! Obama is as corrupt as it gets. If he continues down his socialistic path, he may be hanging out with the former president of Honduras in Costa Rica. I find it awful funny that Obama speaks up immediately when his socialistic comrade gets ousted calling on for democracy to be respected, but it took him DAYS to even comment on Iran. Gotta love our Commander in Chief!

    June 28, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  24. MatthewDetroit

    Clearly shows that they are giving Barack set questions.
    The guy is dirty and a liar, he just still has everyone fooled.
    Wait and you will see, this guy will go down in history as the worst president of the US of all time.
    He will be the man who brought down the US as a free and capitalistic society.
    He will bring on socialism as we have never seen and single handedly break the country.
    God Save us all.

    June 28, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  25. Skyview

    CNN and Fox News are run by the same people that Obama has been fighting against from the first day he announced his run for the presidency. They represent the 'good ole boys' who have been controlling everything sice the days of Rome, and resent the fact that they are loosing power and control of the world. They are fighting in vain, though, because the genie is already out of the bottle and the world will never be the same again. It is especially pleasing to know that the "good ole boys" will no longer control things.

    June 28, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
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