June 28th, 2009
06:52 PM ET
6 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. Phoebe

    Of course they did. Obama has not had an honest press conference or allow questions from true jounalist – EVER. The man is corrupt, dishonest, a fraud and a liar.

    June 28, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  2. ObamaDebateWinner

    Milbank is just pissed b/c he got owned by a an up and coming TRUE journalist who reports actual news....not about bathing suit attire. I hope to hear more from Nico Pitney and less from the whiner Milbank. Now tell me again why Amanda Carpenter was there?

    June 28, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  3. Patrick H

    Who cares...the real news is knowing what flavor ice cream he had last night. I need to know because I'm about to go shopping. I will be so sad if I buy vanilla and find out he had strawberry.

    June 28, 2009 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  4. David

    Of course they are, the people at the huffington post are not reporting, they are actively supporting the protesters and causing harm to most of them by giving them false hope.

    There is a difference between reporting like the BBC, CNN, ABC and the activism of the huffington post and if you post on their website anything contrary to their activism, your post would never show.

    June 28, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  5. Peace

    The purpose of asking the questions and answering them , is to let the rest of us understand what we are in doubt with.
    Not every American must get the chance of asking. Few (reporters) do and the rest benefit by listening.

    June 28, 2009 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  6. pa. independent

    John King, his wife, Dana Bash, Candy Crowley, and Wolf are just a few at CNN that should all be over at the GOP's Fox Noise!

    June 28, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  7. ModerateLady

    CNN is late getting to this story. Obama is all about orchestration, which is his choice, but the press should absolutely NOT be going along with it like this.

    June 28, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  8. Michael Kaufmann

    Americans wanted a Talking Head president, now we have a Talking Head president.

    June 28, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  9. John

    Where was the outrage from the traditional media when the bush white house planted a freaking gay prostitute in the media to ask mudslinging questions about how much Democrats hate America?

    June 28, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  10. Martin

    To quote Richard Cheney: "So?"

    Everybody who've seen any episode of "The West Wing" knows how these things work. It's not unethical to lead and leak so that some things get the attentiion they so richly deserve without the WH seeming to push them. And by the way: the modern press corps at the WH, with all the cameras and so on, was Roosevelts invention to boost his popularity. Would anybody today call the "fireside chats" of that president the "media being in bed" with him?

    June 28, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  11. Meredith

    President Obama has been trying to control the press since before he was elected. Why does his latest ploy surprise anyone...especially the press?

    June 28, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  12. Slowgun

    God Bless you Billy Mays...we'll miss you.
    Congree should observe a moment of silence for him

    June 28, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  13. Ray

    2 words for you Daniel. And you have a nice day.

    June 28, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  14. Rob

    So the night before a press conference, the WH notifies a correspondent they have been selected to ask a question. Instead of giving them the chance to prepare their best possible question, wingnuts would rather they were caught unaware and unprepared?

    "Boxers or briefs", that's all they want isn't it?

    June 28, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  15. NVa Native

    Does the name Jeff Gannon sound familiar?
    How about a "news" agency so involved with politically with the President that he taps their lead anchor to be the White House Press Secretary? Tony Snow.

    The Republicans have made false "news coverage" an art form. Now the corporate press wants to review politics and media bias. What a joke. If there was any real concern Fox would be out of the business of lies and deception.

    June 28, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  16. Mark

    This administration is so REHEARSED/SCRIPTED!!!

    June 28, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  17. Matt

    LOL Liberal Stooge Reporters fighting amongst themselves as to who gets to be Obama's favorite lap dog. This is proof neither print nor internet news have any integrity. And the only way your sheep can defend is to once again say "but Bush did it" and offer no proof.

    Stop carrying the water for these fools.

    June 28, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  18. d lambert

    A rigged press conference. so much for transparency. next thing they will be rigging the staggering unemployment numbers.Give trillions of dollars to the crooks and still noone is working

    June 28, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  19. pat c

    oh pleeeese never talk about another media as long as we have FOX news out there beating president obama down with every show they produce. i can't stomach glen beck or hannity and most of the time o'rily because they just pick snip-its of what the dems are working on or pieces of obama's speech and destroy the whole point of view to their one sided sick viewpoints. FOX is the disgrace and shame on america for listening to one sided politics.

    June 28, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  20. Republicans are the American Taliban

    Again CNN leads the pack in creating the news....

    June 28, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  21. Bryan

    Bush is gone...why do half the posts mention him?

    Why are people attacking the question instead of answering it?

    Does anyone REALLY belive CNN is pulling for the GOP?

    I have a feeling that many of our presit\dents supporters don't care what he dose... they will support him no matter what. My question is why???

    June 28, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  22. Bob Smith

    Jeez maybe this will get some traction or maybe they can dig up some other crap.
    Like Drudge, Rush and Coulter are objective and concerned about America.
    Don't you get it Bush and his cronies took a country with a budget surplus, with respect around the world and eviserated it.
    This is a distraction I don't buy it. These greedy, selfish scum will stop at nothing to get back in power.

    June 28, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  23. Pat F


    Now be a good girl and stop playing with daddy's computer. I'm sure there is a jump rope outside just waiting to be skipped.

    June 28, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  24. Sally

    Obama is a creation just like Bob Roberts. He has never been quite real.

    June 28, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  25. sax

    Of course Obama wants to orchestrate and answer to a question. Mr. Hollywood loves to look good on camera. This guy spends more time on tv and throws enough parties to make the any socialist proud!

    June 28, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
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