December 27th, 2008
01:08 PM ET
13 years ago

Obama gives the press the slip

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Barack Obama enjoys some shaved ice while vacationing in Hawaii with his family."]WAIMANALO, Hawaii (CNN) - President-elect Barack Obama slipped away Friday from the traveling press pool that follows him wherever he goes, taking his two young daughters and other family members and friends to Sea Life Park Hawaii.

The Obamas are vacationing in Hawaii.

CNN was the only news organization to witness the park outing. The president-elect was joined by about nine others, including daughters Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10, half-sister Maya Sotero-Ng, her husband and daughter and friend Eric Whitaker.

The group caught a dolphin show before visiting a touch pool and the sea lion exhibit, where it was feeding time.

After the park visit, the Obama group was joined by the press pool - which arrived at the park about an hour after the Obamas but was not allowed in - as they stopped for a sandwich and shaved ice. The reporters refused an offer from Obama to buy them some shaved ice.

The press was allowed to take photographs for more than 20 minutes - much longer than the typical photo opportunity at such an event - before Obama asked the crews and the large crowd that had gathered to "let me eat in peace."

The traveling press pool that accompanies high-ranking officials like the president-elect or the president is made up of about 15 representatives from all types of media - newspaper, magazine, radio, television. Those representatives report back on their subject's movements for the rest of the media.

Their purpose is to provide a public record of the official's activities, a vital service in a functioning democracy.

On Friday, the pool went with Obama to the gym earlier in the day and then returned to their hotels after the transition team said there would be no further events.

"With no further scheduled events for the day, a lid was called until further notice," said Ben Labolt, a transition team spokesman. "The president-elect (later) decided to take the girls to a water park, and we assembled the pool as quickly as possible."

When the travel pool was notified that the Obamas were heading to the park, they notified other news agencies - including CNN. The pool had to return to the Obamas' vacation home to be taken to the park by the transition team; CNN's crew, not a part of the pool on Friday, was closer to the park.

When visitors of the park recognized the president-elect, they began snapping more photos and videos of Obama's group than of the marine animals. A number of Secret Service agents kept people at a safe distance, asking onlookers to keep walking after they stood looking at the group a while.

The Obamas are trying to establish a level of privacy for Sasha and Malia, as previous presidents have done with their own children. But it's been more than 30 years since a presidential child has been under the age of 10, and the fine line between keeping the public eye on the president-elect while keeping the children's privacy intact is not always clear.

Amy Carter, daughter of President Jimmy Carter, was 9 years old when her father took office. The children of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush were grown when they took office, and Chelsea Clinton was 12 when President Bill Clinton took office. President George W. Bush's twins Jenna and Barbara were 20 when their father became president.

Four days ago, paparazzi staked out the Obamas' vacation rental home on the public Kailua Beach and snapped photographs of the family. The photos, particularly one of a shirtless Obama in swim trunks, caused a media firestorm.

The transition team dismissed the photo of the president-elect, but they were not pleased with the photos of the children.

CNN photojournalist Khalil Abdallah contributed to this report.

soundoff (288 Responses)
  1. Tony

    Simply amazing that the "press" will stoop to paparazzo like levels.

    "Four days ago, paparazzi staked out the Obamas' vacation rental home on the public Kailua Beach and snapped photographs of the family. The photos, particularly one of a shirtless Obama in swim trunks, caused a media firestorm."

    ...and THIS is why CNN reports on it. So CNN can get "the next big story" on President-Elect Obama. CNN – this is thinly veiled fluff.

    Leave the man alone! Seriously. Let him vacation. He's not even in office yet.

    December 27, 2008 09:22 am at 9:22 am |
  2. Jim lawrence

    Freedom of the press does not include invasion of privacy . This greedy narcissism must's disgusting and will turn more people against the press. We need an ethial media, not this kind of garbage "journalism."

    December 27, 2008 09:23 am at 9:23 am |
  3. June

    Obama has to give something (i.e shaved ice...) back to the press. Afterall, Obama got a free ride with the press during the election. Also, he knows he will get a free ride with the press during his Presidency.

    December 27, 2008 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  4. songinthetrees

    Your headline somehow loses credibility as the number polled was only 1000 + people. Unfortunately CNN has not proved to be an unbiased polling source and those responding probably don't represent a true cross-section of America.

    December 27, 2008 09:27 am at 9:27 am |
  5. John

    I think the press is THRILLED because they now can go to a decent place to cover a president like Hawaii! Can you imagine being on the press junket in Crawford, TX? Shoot me....please!

    If given a choice between the two, which would YOU choose?!

    December 27, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  6. SAGG

    Darth Vadik, you hit the nail right on the head. Give Obama a while to be President before you anti-Obamacans start hating.

    December 27, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  7. Marge

    Gee they didn't get a pin up of the beef cake....the skinny ribbed rock star. He doesn't look like some buff guy to me. He needs to add some healthy pounds. But I suppose the diet guys love him. All the young kids will want to loose weight.

    December 27, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  8. nate

    Who wouldnt?

    December 27, 2008 09:30 am at 9:30 am |
  9. Barbara, FL

    Wow, I'd take him up on the offer, we miss shaved ice. Now if we could only get pics of him with some musubi!

    December 27, 2008 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  10. Mama J

    I have to agree with those that say what the HECK were you doing following this man and his kids to Sea Life Park? It is None Of Your Business, or ours, and to pretend that it is only makes you look ridiculous and like, yes, paparazzi, not journalists.

    If he'd given the Secret Service the slip, it would be news. Giving the press the slip? My hat's off to him, even if CNN didn't have the decency to leave them alone. It doesn't make you look any better that you managed not to be evaded.

    December 27, 2008 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  11. show me state



    December 27, 2008 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  12. Ridiculous!

    Is there a story here? Hooray - CNN was the first to catch him spending time with his family and enjoy shaved ice on a hot day.... and? This is a pointless report only written when there was nothing of merit to write about the President-Elect. Way to go, CNN - I definitely feel more in touch with the political happenings of our nation than I did five minutes ago.

    December 27, 2008 09:33 am at 9:33 am |
  13. Soldier

    I guess reporting on Soldiers dying isnt news anymore. Rather the news crews and companies would rather write about a family at Seaworld or Britney. I have to wonder why I fight for this country at times. This country and some people in it make me sick at times.

    December 27, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  14. Are you serious?

    My goodness.. what a sinner.. Obama takes kids to an aquarium!! Gasp!
    This is a wonderful, loving caring man who loves his children.. he is almost the most powerful man in the world. Can you cut him some much needed slack!! I wouldn't wish his next year on anybody but he willing chose to take up the immense responsibility to be POTUS.. America give him a chance and leave him alone with his family for some needed R & R geeze Louise.. the press has become a sad bunch of swarming fruit flies. Enough already!
    Paula from Canada

    December 27, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  15. Retired Army in San Antonio

    Irritated in Fl --- December 27th, 2008 8:44 am ET

    He's always trying to buy the press gifts. I guess he feels guilty for all the free positive coverage and protection they provided him during the election.


    This was supposed to be sarcasm......right?

    Too bad it was neither clever or funny; just more of the same old sour grapes.

    BTW Irritated........Preperation H will make things much better for ya 😉 .

    December 27, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  16. 25 Days to Go!!

    At times it is becoming less and less evident what the difference between the "protective press" and the paparazzi.

    The press should have taken the hint and stayed away from the park. What did they expect: PE Obama to make a major announcement between runs down the water slide??

    If he had told them all the whiners would have said it was just a photo op. How many parents out there would have wanted photos of their little girls in bathing suits floating around the blogs?

    December 27, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  17. enough already

    Obama loves, get used to his privacy being invaded for the next four years. That is just the way it is, and if he doesn't like it, he should have thought about that before runnig.

    December 27, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  18. Cathy in Vermont

    Two points:
    1.Obama should be allowed some vacation time with his daughters who had to do without him for much of the last two yeats (Repubs, I thought family values was one of your things?)
    2. Reporters did not make a big stink when Hillary plied them with chocolate and other gifts on the campaign. I think Obama was raised that it is impolite to eat in front of others, so he offers to share.
    Lay off him already, and CNN quit with the non stories.

    December 27, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  19. gc

    "Messiah watch". What are you talking about. A family vacation makes him an elitist now? Give it a rest. Your alias says so much about your mental state, I guess we shouldn't be surprised.

    December 27, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  20. SAGG

    Messiah watch, you and your ilk disgust me. You'd be okay with Bush probably partying like there's no end after he leaves office in his new multi-million dollar house in Dallas, you know, to celebrate his making gazillions with Cheney and their oil buddies at our expense, but PE Obama takes a last vacation with his family THAT WAS PAID FOR PRIVATELY WITH DONATIONS before he goes into the White House to clean up the mess Bush and Cheney created, and you make snide little remarks? Blasted hypocrite.

    December 27, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  21. kennyboon

    it is alright for the press following him everywhere. However I think the public dont really care about what he does in his personal free time eating shaved ice, but what he does and will do for this country. Obama is as normal as you and I, just that he had played a very smart good strategy in his life and we can learn from him.

    December 27, 2008 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  22. sm

    The press should leave the Obama's to their private family outing...he and his family won't get any privacy once they enter the white house. I agree that there is nothing about the childrens outing that is publicly news-worthy...give them some peace.

    December 27, 2008 09:42 am at 9:42 am |
  23. SAGG

    And Messiah watch–? It's "their", not "there". When you don't spell your words right, you show your ignorance, not that you haven't already.

    December 27, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  24. Obama Fan

    What "vital service in a functioning democracy" is served by stalking a family out for a day of fun. Seems to me that a "functioning" democracy also includes privacy.

    The press is trying in vain to legitimize its further descent into sensationalism and gossip rather than performing its real "function" in a democracy which is to objectively report the news, not trying to create it.

    December 27, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  25. Stu-Florida

    By the way... in Hawaii it's called SHAVE ICE... be cool!

    December 27, 2008 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
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