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. WIlly Brown

    Barry's a phoney! You wanted a good looking empty suit built by the media, you got it.

    June 28, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  2. sifto77

    daniel–you, obviously, don't watch Fox news or you would be noticing that they do not favor republicans–they always show 2 sides–the only news network who does that.

    June 28, 2009 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  3. Jerad

    I always find it funny that people bring up Fox News when talking about bias in the media. People need to learn that Hannity and O'Reilly are commentators not anchors. A commentator is supposed to be biased. On every other network, the actual anchors, who are supposed to be unbiased, all lean to the left. Even if Fox News does have a slight lean to the right, it's more than justified considering every other news channel is Obama's mouthpiece.

    June 28, 2009 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  4. FactCheck

    Dana Milbank? The person who once asked Obama how he thought he looked in a bathing suit? Okay, next story.

    June 28, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  5. Post always rejected by CNN

    Gee these news guys are sure getting their shorts in a bunch. I guess they have had so many planted questions, so much favoritism with bush and his administration they look at all others with suspisicions. they know how it was done and they figure everyone is doing it.

    June 28, 2009 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  6. Annie

    Isn't Dana Milbank the guy that wrote an article about something Obama said, and only used part of the quote, changing the whole meaning. And isn't he also the guy dropped by MSNBC because of said article and change in context of Obama's statement. So who cares what he is whining about now. If he's one of the voices of main stream media, I'll stick with the bloggers.

    June 28, 2009 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  7. Ken

    The "story" sounds like children playing in a school yard. Don't Kutz and Milbank have anything better to do?

    June 28, 2009 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  8. bimmer

    I bet if President Obama has called Ed Henry from CNN the night before that he will be allowed to ask a question, he would have said, "NO Mr. President. That's not fair to my colleagues from other network."

    The entire media including CNN (except FOX) was, is and will be in bed with Obama (recall the Saturday night live skit). Now that Huffington Post was the new love all the other dates are complaining foul.

    Jealousy and Hypocrisy at its worst.

    June 28, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  9. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    OK, Pres Obama, the ball is in your court.

    What is the truth to this matter?

    I voted for you, and if you want me to vote for you again, get this straightened out and soon!

    June 28, 2009 04:53 pm at 4:53 pm |
  10. Tony

    Of course the question was completely staged. The exchange between Pitney and Obama was so contrived that only two fakes like Pitney and Obama could actually think that anybody would buy it.

    June 28, 2009 04:57 pm at 4:57 pm |
  11. GOP

    It is just so funny reading what you liberal Democrats have to say about Republicans and the press.

    If any one writes anything negative about your lord Obama then you just cry out about them being biased.

    However, when we see real first hand bias that Obama gives to these nut job people at the unintelligent Huffington post you liberals ignore it.

    I don’t care about who Obama is in bed with are how many made up questions they give him in order to make him look good or intelligent.

    With Obama the saying holds true “you can put lipstick on a pig and Obama is still a pig“!

    June 28, 2009 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  12. Leah DiMarco, Texas

    At his next press conference President Obama should call on only 'bloggers' for questions and then that would really make the MSM cry in their hankies ;)

    June 28, 2009 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  13. Simmy

    I'm thrilled that the President has chosen to call on "Blogging" machines.......I don't recall Bush ever doing the same......As for Dana Milbank and others, I agree with the person who said that it boils down to jealousy.......They're all still playing checkers and pin the tail on the donkey........President Obama is still playing chess.....He's a skillful player......I almost understand the Republicans' frustrations, but I'm devoid of empathy......

    June 28, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  14. roricka

    What baloney. Has ANYBODY bother to check how Obama answered this particular question (which was basically what would it take for Obama to accept Ahmadinejad as the ruler of Iran; IRC, he also asked something about whether O would call him President Ahmadinejad)? Obama said it didn't matter what he did - the issue wasn't how we responded but how the Iranian people responded. If this was a set up hoping for a homerun, I'd say Obama got about a single at best.

    June 28, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  15. Jim in Idaho

    Now this is news reporting.....people decrying that Obama got asked a question by a plant. Nowhere here do I see either the actual question that got asked, nor do I see the answer Obama supposedly gave. So.....the news/controversy is apparently not over the substance of actual question or the actual answer–because I assume one of these "crack" reporters would be doing just that were that the case –just that the question was asked by someone not usually called on ?

    This is the best CNN can do today? What a waste of webspace....

    June 28, 2009 05:01 pm at 5:01 pm |
  16. Daun

    Does anyone else smell the jealousy and desperation? Just change the W in Washington Post to W for WHINY!

    June 28, 2009 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  17. DieLibsDie

    Gee, who da thunk that the entire 'journalist' world is in bed with his holiness the Big O?

    June 28, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  18. Rose

    I think this happens all the time, Obama has plants in his town hall meetings. He can't get along without his teleprompter so he knows what questions are coming. It is pretty obvious during his many campaign speeches the audience is carefully chosen and their seating is also selected in advance. Michelle Obama did the same thing, she asked the staff to seat white people behind her. Pathetic!!!!

    June 28, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  19. Barack OPhony

    Why should anyone be surprised at the White house planting questions and orchestrating the press conference? All Obama has ever done is read speeches written by others off a teleprompter. Obama is an empty suit

    June 28, 2009 05:03 pm at 5:03 pm |
  20. MM in Arizona

    (1) At least this President has press conferences

    (2) This President knows how to speak English and formulate intelligent sentences

    (3) This administration does not intimidate journalists or ignore some who will potentially ask difficult questions

    (4) If this was staged, perhaps it was on purpose so that a message could be sent to both the Iranian people and the Iranian leadership ... like this has never been done before.

    June 28, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  21. William

    How utterly ridiculous. Just because our last administration couldn't define honesty with the help of a dictionary, doesn't mean that this one is the same way. Presidents and their press secretaries often get heads-ups from members of the press about questions they intend to ask. It is the press secretary's job to craft the presidents message and, no doubt, suggest that he take a question from a specific reporter if he knows that reporter will ask a question that will focus the press conference on an issue the president needs or wants to discuss.

    June 28, 2009 05:06 pm at 5:06 pm |
  22. T22

    At least some of you I hope understand why this wouldn't be a good thing, right? If the White House is planting the questions, we don't have a free media. I have no problem with credentialed blog reporters getting a chance to ask questions, just don't script them.

    June 28, 2009 05:07 pm at 5:07 pm |
  23. Donkey Party

    Sorry, but this is the only place left "open" to comment on Graham's comments:

    Lindsey Graham is just another pink-faced, yellow-bellied HYPOCRITE who only remains in power due to the overwhelming majority of white-trash redneck voters in SC (the same ones with the Confederate flags in their front yards and the plastic Jesuses on their mantles). Same reason why Sanford and Barbour stay in office. No decent individuals would ever vote for these scumbags, only the under-educated ,backward thinking religious zealot Neo-cons, sort of like Ahmadinejad's followers. Which also explains why Sanford didn't want any stimulus money to go toward SC education, he wouldn't want to educate his base and lose power.

    June 28, 2009 05:11 pm at 5:11 pm |
  24. If you have to ask the question,,,,,

    it WAS a planted question....the media is still kissing Obama's butt, but it won't last as unemployment continues to grow....and as Obama is mocked by Iran and N. Korea....

    June 28, 2009 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  25. whaley41

    Why is this news? Blah, blah, blah.....

    June 28, 2009 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
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