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. cali j

    A slobbering media love affair is what todays media has with BHO. The man has not been asked one hard question, because if he so much as thinks you are not down 100% with his policies, he kicks you off of the airplane! Remember that one?
    Katiec: if all you can do is compare to Bush, then start comparing spending, unemployment rates, home values, etc.

    June 28, 2009 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  2. Don

    Dana Milbank is a hypocritrical hack, whose time has come and gone. Like others in the Beltway media crowd, he is simply jealous that someone who doesn't "belong to the club" had an opportunity to ask a better question than Milbank could have ever thought up.

    Unfortunately, the Post fired Froomkin instead of this idiot.

    June 28, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  3. GenTwelve

    President Obama is turning ou to be a con just like President Bush. The majority of people are getting tired of his routine. Looks like we have to get somebody else in 2012.

    June 28, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  4. bob

    Just one more example of the dis-honesty of our current president.

    June 28, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  5. Paul Cooper

    A president one-quarter as in control as Obama claims to be would not find it necessary to stage questions during a White House Press briefing. It is a sign of weakness and a lack of confidence in his own abilities that President Obama did this. If Bush had done it, everyone saying it's no big deal would have been screaming otherwise, and they would have been right.

    June 28, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  6. St. James

    Why is Reliable Sources and CNN whinning?? Because Ed Henry did not get to ask one of his supremely silly questions this time around? give me a break...

    June 28, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  7. Rightsaid

    Either way, not important. The question was a tough, honest question.

    June 28, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  8. patrick

    Sounds like pure Obama orchestrating the media. I wonder when the media will call off their love affair with him?

    June 28, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  9. Denna

    Was there a plant questioner in the audience for President Obama. Maybe. Well, if it was okay for Bush, It's okay for President Obama. I seem to remember President Obama handing one insistent reporter his head when he accused the president of not answering a question he had just answered. Will these people never get enough of messing with this man?

    June 28, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  10. Richard Patteson

    the real scandal on today's episode was how many mistakes Howard Kurtz made, saying Brazil for Argentina, Rio de Janeiro for Buenos Aires, and twice getting dates balled up in his Michael Jackson reporting. Do your homework, Howard.

    But Dana came off looking really unctious and yes, jealous. It's a new world, Dana. Live with it.

    June 28, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  11. Chipster

    Excuse me? Jeff Gannon (i.e. James Gucker)!

    If the Obama White House arranged for a question in advance, it certainly wouldn't be unprecedented, would it? Anything illegal about it? In this case, it sounds as if the President blew off the question so, if it was orchestrated, the orchestra was off-key. If this is all the GOP has, things must be going well for the Obama Administration.

    June 28, 2009 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  12. david

    obama is more like a celibrity on BET rather than a sitting potus. as of today, looking forward to seeing him voted out of office.

    June 28, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  13. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    And Jeff Gannon, the GOP-plant at Bush press conferences, was what then?!?!?!

    June 28, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  14. Stormer

    Oh, please. This is such a non-story.

    Every president since Truman has had better relationships with some White House reporters than others. Nixon, Johnson, Reagan, Bushes 1 & 2, Clinton ALL would have their staff let one reporter or another know ahead of time that the Prez would be calling on them.

    It simply appears that the old-line reporters are miffed that the new, young bucks (the bloggers) are getting the same access that the old guard considered their turf.

    Get used to it Old Guys! This is the way it is and it's not news.

    June 28, 2009 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  15. Dave

    Gee, I wonder if everyone felt the same way about this subject when the Limbaugh and Fox News Networks lived in the Bush WhiteHouse? WHen Cheney made his monthly appearances on Limbaugh's show for back scratching? When FoxNews always had the inside on questions and answers and feeds from the Bush WhiteHouse. Give me a break with the hypocritical reactions here, folks

    June 28, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  16. DJK

    Can it Milbank! People like you created this situation when you tell lies and half-truths to the American people. We are watching.

    June 28, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  17. P J Evans

    The newspaper and TV reporters are ticked off because someone from outside their sycophantic group got to ask a real question posed by real people, instead of another meaningless fluffy feel-good bowl of pablum.

    They need to go out and relearn their alleged profession, preferably somewhere far from DC, before they do any more complaining about who is qualified to ask questions at a press conference *that they aren't in charge of*.

    June 28, 2009 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  18. I told you so

    of course they are planted! Every thing the clown n chief has done has been a pre rehearsed act! You dolts in the media are just to busy kissing I mean licking the presidents backside to report the news

    June 28, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  19. Steve from WI

    I honestly don't understand what the problem is. Let's forget for a moment what katiec points out, that the Bush Administration was infamous for using planted questions. If Obama was doing the same, I would want to know about it. I'm happy that we have a President who frequently calls press conferences, and it sounds like here he is making a point of reaching out to the so-called new media.

    I saw the conference and didn't see a scripted setup. Obviously the President would be aware of the nature of the question given the way that Pitney publicly solicited questions from Iranians, and as PItney said, Obama really didn't answer the (poorly selected) question. It really does sound like jealousy on the part of the MSM - and I can't believe I just used that abbreviation, either.

    June 28, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  20. Linda B., Ga.

    Next time they should call on a Mad Magazine or Marvel Comic Books reporter...... These BIG newspaper and TV Reporters always think they need to be the only ones called on.....I think it's great President Obama given everybody a chance....and how rediculous on the question being hand picked beforehand...arggggggggggggggghhhh!!!!

    June 28, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  21. joy

    talk about John King who is in bed with the GOP. John King is a disgrace. Shame on u John King, your stupid show suck. Why don't Kurtz talk about John King and Lou who is in bed with the Gop. PLs Kurtz give me a break... Will you?

    June 28, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  22. GI Joe

    Sounds like petty jealousy to me. Grow up and do some journalism instead of the gossip and fighting.

    June 28, 2009 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  23. sifto77

    what is so irritating–is that Obama considers most Americans fools and thinks no one is smart enough to catch on to his kindergarten tricks. The liberals simply don't care..the arrogance of the man (Obama) is appalling.

    June 28, 2009 04:44 pm at 4:44 pm |
  24. Sick of Dirty Obama

    IMO Obama is filthy scum – I expect that he is rigging his press conferences. Assume that everything that comes out of his mouth is LIES and you will be correct 90% of the time.

    June 28, 2009 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  25. Steve in Alaska

    So what is the big deal. "W" used to plant questions at his so-called "town hall" meetings all the time. There were also times when the press corps was told to submit questions in advance and "W" would call on those whose questions he wanted to answer.

    The press let "W" get away with war, lying and torture. They press never informed the public or asked the hard questions. If new media can do a better job, then by all means let them submit some questions. The current "news" media, and sorry CNN your are part of the problem, is mostly "entertainment".

    Three days of Micheal Jackson songs is not what I call news. Nor is Palin's whinning about bad jokes. Why doesn't the media teach us about health care reform and bank bailouts? This is the stuff that effects our lives... not MJ and Palin.

    June 28, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
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