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. Donkey Party

    REPUBLICONS have created an atomosphere of hate, that's why I hate them. Colin Powell is the only Republican in the entire GOP that I have any respect for. Somebody help me out, are there any other Republicans out there that are worthy of respect? Anyone? Bueller???

    June 28, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  2. Jen

    That Dana guy is such a dweeb. I've never seen such a pathetic, whining journalist. I will never believe anything else he reports.

    June 28, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  3. Katy

    This is just another instance where Obama and Bush are identical in their political ideology. Both only allow "yes" men/women to be a part of their team. Both control the input and output. Both also professed to be a "uniter, not a divider" and the political divisions in the U.S. only continue to widen.

    June 28, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  4. eric in texas

    Is this news. This guy can't speak without a teleprompter in his face. Do you think he is going to field a question that his team hasn't already gotten him an answer for?

    And to all of you idiots that say things like Fox news. Wake up. That is 1 network. Every other one is in bed with Obama, so shut up.

    Obama promised change. Here is your change. He promised to create millions of jobs. Instead, his administration is responsiblie for the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs within GM and Chrysler alone. That is within dealership shutdowns, factory closures and personnel changes. When unemployment was at 5% Bush was an idiot. Now, unemployment is at 10%, but hey, it could be worse. Obama is digging us out of Bush's mess? No, he is creating more mess. Now the question is, who digs us out of Obama's mess?

    June 28, 2009 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  5. eric in texas

    katiec June 28th, 2009 1:10 pm ET

    Every press conference was scripted by Bush. He answered all reporters questions with notes on his podium.
    The crowds at this speeches were hand picked, Bush supporters.
    If Huffington Post supports the president good. We need at least one media out there to weigh against the bias shown by CNN and others.
    ______________________________________________________

    This is without a doubt, the most ignorant, uninformed post I have read on here in months.

    Are you stupid enough to think that only ONE media outlet supports Obama? The man received 3 times the media coverage during the primaries that McCain had. Every time he farts, it's national news. Every idea he has is great. Every goal is a step forward for America. While the man has tripled the deficit, he is still the savior.....and you lady....are a retard.

    June 28, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  6. former reporter

    Can you say "state-run media?"

    June 28, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  7. skyfang

    Pleeeeeeze !!!!!! The Media is so DEEP in the tank for Obama, I'm surprised they don't all have the "bends".
    Of course Obama chose Pitney for a set-up question, and Pitney dutifully obliged. Don't be surprised if Pitney somehow is the White House spokesman in a year or so. That's the way the game is played folks
    The bigger problem is, the Media with the exception of Fox News is in partnership with a deeper, darker, and more sinister aspect of what is happening with the unholy alliance. It's called a one Party Government or shall I call it what it is. DICTATORSHIP !!!! When Congress can pass legislation without even knowing or reading the contents, we have surely lost our Republic and the principles for which our Founding Fathers risked so much to provide us with.

    June 28, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  8. jeff

    it is all,the presses fdault for falling in love with this man.
    They should have broken Wright during the 1st primary and it would have derailed Obama from the start but they new about wright and did nothing.
    It is too late to start blamiming one media outlet for not doing their job when it was ALL of them including CNN

    June 28, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  9. Jean

    When will you people learn, Obama is clueless. He is as good as his teleprompter. The truth is slowly leaking out. The man is an empty suit and we all have been fooled by his puppets and by the MSM.

    June 28, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  10. Cody

    Normally I would agree that this should not happen. But this is something off a special case. This was a question directly from the people of Iran and the answer was to the people of Iran. The situation right now warrants this breach of protocol.

    June 28, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  11. Brandon

    I read CNN reguraly but it is not the only means of information. I am on the computer at work so the news cycle is fast on the internet so huffington post seems to report more front line news and has news before it hits the TV cycle. Of course Huffingpost is in the bed with the White house they are a liberal site, They are going to push his agenda. Just like fox did Bush.

    June 28, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  12. The real hypocrisy

    While I can't speculate on whether the President "knew" or "expected" the question, I find this to be a hollow, non-story.

    "Planting" questions has regularly been suggested over several Administrations. Yes, it is somewhat manipulative, but it is also a means for the speaker to drive home a point – one I may or may not agree with.

    But to make this into some sort of surreptitious plot comes off as more disingenous than the practice being slammed.

    June 28, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  13. Gary in CA

    Yes, certain networks and organizations are on Obama's side and support his agenda no matter how questionable. That's a given.

    I am finding it interesting how democracy and order around the world is starting to crumble... now that the leading authoritative democratic nation in the world is backpedaling....

    June 28, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  14. Ann

    ck June 28th, 2009 3:02 pm ET
    WAKE UP AMERICA!
    Obama has begun the process of media censorship. Once that happens, God help us all.

    He has begun the process? what about the Democratic primaries and the election? Media was in this for a long time now. They just don't know what they have agreed with.

    June 28, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  15. goodness, the whole Bush term was orchestrated

    Katiec got it correct

    I attended some of those speeches by Bush, you could not get in with out a ticket, and the only way you got a ticket was from a republican

    this might be a problem if we hadn't just experienced Bush/Cheney

    June 28, 2009 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  16. BUTTACAVOLI

    it's called DICTATOR he wants to run every company and now he will tell us what to ask him. what bs

    June 28, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  17. rfh commom since

    It's a shame that the press is scared to ask the President real questions where you can get a real answer and not have our President beat around the bush and not even answer.

    People wake up before it is too late.

    June 28, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  18. Bev

    An we are surprised by this? Um...NO. It's good to see that some journalists actually have ethics after all and realize how dangerous it is when the media and the administration are working in cohorts with eachother. It is not healthy or safe for the news media and the administration to have a close relationship. I want the news people to ask tough questions. I want the administration (either party) to be scrutinized. I want them to AFRAID of the news media. I do not want either party in the white house to feel like they can say or do anything and feel secure it will not be questioned. If Obama does not want to answer the tough questions then too bad. When the news media turns on this president he has been so used to being pampered it's going to hit him like a ton of bricks. And it WILL happen....

    June 28, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  19. Hannah Stevens

    It is refreshing to have a president who holds press conferences. Bush couldn't hold one for the first year of his presidency and then when he did, he knew the questions before hand. And then there was the Jeff Gannon affair. And when bush had town halls the people were all vetted to make sure they were not against the president.

    We are so fortunate to have this articulate, thinking president who is doing his best to get us out of the horrible mess that cheney/bush got us into. I am thankful every day that the nightmare of the last eight years is over.

    June 28, 2009 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  20. David

    Why is this surprising to anyone? Obama isn't smart enough to answer any real questions. This man is so fake he makes me want to vomit.

    June 28, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  21. david

    "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"

    The obvious difference, Dave, is Fox News being ONE cable network, vs ABC, CBS, NBC, NY Times, PBS, and virtually the rest of the establishment mass media being in Obama's pocket.

    June 28, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  22. Zach

    Next time lets get Perez Hilton in there. That would be sure to make the MSM mad. Go Obama. It was his press conferance and he can run it any way he deems fit. If he wants to "plant" someone in there to make sure a certain question is asked to get a point across then so be it. Republicans grow up and quit your whinning.

    June 28, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  23. Jane

    The "machine" is in full swing.

    June 28, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  24. Mike

    MM in Arizona: The only thing that this president knows how to do is read what is fed to him from a teleprompter.

    June 28, 2009 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  25. david

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

    Hmmmm....trying to think when Obama was actually really asked a difficult question. Nope, can't think of one....

    June 28, 2009 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
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