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. 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 any socialist proud!

    June 28, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  2. Robert

    Big surprise, tell me something new. I did not vote for the guy so don't blame me.

    June 28, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  3. Karl

    Well the teleprompter needs to have the answer. So most of the journos there were planted and the answers already fed into the teleprompter for Mr. President to read.

    June 28, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  4. John

    More "change" that BHO promised. What's BHOs' problem? Is his head so big and his ego so out of control that he just can't for one minute humble himself and let himself be honest like he used to be? Who cares what the media thinks? If your heart is in the right place then playing games with the media would be totally unnecessary. The only person who thinks that BHO has to wave a magic wand around and instantly fix our problems is BHO.

    June 28, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  5. Brian, OR

    At least this president holds more than one or two press conferences a year. He also makes sure to call on people from the hard right media (HRM).

    HRM = Fox News, Washington Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, etc., etc...

    MSM = facts don't fit your fear mongering, money grubbing game.

    NY Time subscription year-over-year, -12%.
    NY Post subscription year-over-year, -20%

    It seems the right wing echo chamber is ringing flat these days.

    June 28, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  6. democrat no mas

    The news media is biased? This is news? I have to start my day with a German and a UK newspaper just to find out what the real news is. Then you triangulate off of the rest of you guys. It's only entertainment these days. I only hope the next president our news media elects is a little more middle of the road.

    June 28, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  7. S M R

    What about Joe the plumber asking Obama about higher taxes for small business? This was a GOP planted question.Obama can handle questions from the media with no problem. Could Bush or Palin? NOT

    June 28, 2009 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  8. JK Ashburn, VA

    You Kool-Aid drinkers can challenge this all you want, but that the question was planted is already a known fact confirmed by the person who asked it.

    So, not only are Obama"s legenday speaking skills questionable by virtue of the fact that he only speaks well when using a well-rehearsed speech on a tele-prompter. Now, the questions are going to be known in advance so even answers can be written on a teleprompter. This guy is an empty suit who is beginning to look more like the Manchurian candidate every day.

    Makes you wonder who the real President is at this point.

    June 28, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  9. am

    Why not just make a list and number the excuses:

    1. Fox News
    2. Republicans
    3. Previous Administration
    4. Dick Chaney

    Count me among the Republicans who hope that Obama and his policies succeed; for the good of the country and me.

    This is an exceptionaly media-savvy administration but they just got their fingers burned. I expect that everyone makes mistakes. I also expect bright people to admit those mistakes and move on.

    June 28, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  10. Good one

    Dana needs to stop wasting our time with his fussing. What a twit. By the way, who does John King's makeup - please cut down on the hair mousse. The man looks too muck like a mannequin .

    June 28, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  11. Good one

    Dana needs to stop wasting our time with his fussing. What a twit. By the way, who does John King's makeup - please cut down on the hair mousse. The man looks too much like a mannequin .

    June 28, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  12. sue

    obama is a sorry sunami waiting to happen

    June 28, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  13. david

    How is this news? Of course the media's in bed with Obama....Newsweek, Time, MSNBC, CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, NY Times, etc.......This fawning love affair, as someone else pointed out above, has been acknowledged by some (Time editor after the campaign), and even made fun of by SNL. Softball questions and puff pieces. And the only retort by libs on here is " yeah, so, blah....FOX NEWS!!" 1 cable network vs all of the others listed above. Ok.

    June 28, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  14. Sam


    This President thinks the American people are to stupid to catch on.

    June 28, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  15. Carl

    I think I am dumber after reading about this.

    June 28, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  16. sue

    obama sucks big time

    June 28, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
  17. JS007

    Some in the media, like Fox "News", use a business model of half-truths or even outright misinformation as the only way to serve a certain segment of the viewership that does not care about facts, and Obama has every right to ignore and make fun of them until they start acting like real journalists. Obama is at his best when he is facing tough questions anyway, so I think that calling this guy ahead of time was more about supporting that particular news outlet than getting a softball question – only okay to do if you are trying to encourage good journalism, but not if you are trying to get more favorable or softer coverage.

    June 28, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  18. Simon

    The only thing I'm mad at the Obama whitehouse for is that it has not prosecuted every single member of the Republican party and 90% of the media for treason and had you all shot. That's right shot for treason. Filthy fascists.

    June 28, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  19. d lambert

    What scares me is his popularity is so high why does he have to stage the questions.Most people think he can do no wrong. So why is he staging the questions.

    June 28, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  20. GuyInVA

    The simple fact that the Huffington Post has a place at the press conference tells you all you need to know about what has become of the media today. It is a mean spirited, one sided, liberal house organ for this administration. The president is a hypocrite when he says FOX News is trying to hurt his administration, and then orchestrates a press conference question with the Huffington Post.

    June 28, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  21. Andi

    I can't believe this is even a big deal.

    June 28, 2009 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  22. Carl Justus

    I see little regard for the truth in most of our so called "FREE MEDIA". Most of what we read is mostly opinion or enhance in the way the so called " newsperson" leans it is pathetic.

    It would be absolutely wonderful if ALL the media would resor to only reporting the FACTS, THE TRUTH, NOT THE TRUTH AS SOME ONE WOULD LIKE IT TO BE.

    Murdock has said it was fine to SLANT THE NEWS-Slanted news is NOT NEWS, IT IS a reporters or owners opinion-PERIOD.

    You could not pay me to watch fox opinionated network and I quit reading the wall street journal, but the stock qoutes and a three or four of the commentaries.

    June 28, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  23. dave

    cnn is in bed with the GOP?!? Has anybody told the dems about this? All this time they thought CNN was getting stuck late at work!

    June 28, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  24. kathy

    Is it possible Obama and Gibbs are sick and tired of getting stupid questions and perhaps, just by chance, they wanted to get a thoughtful question about a real issue? Just maybe? I've watched press conferences on C-Span and it would probably be more interesting to see school children ask Sasha and Malia questions about Bo or the garden. Jeeze....

    June 28, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  25. **yawn**

    Do the GOP, their sympathizers, and apologists have nothing else to whine about today? Obama dodged the question for crying out loud!!!!! What is the issue here!?

    June 28, 2009 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
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