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. Travis

    Don't forget to pickup your Birth Certificate that the Governor of Hawaii has sealed and is waiting for you.

    December 27, 2008 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  2. Terry B.

    Jeez Louise does this stuff really matter? Is it worth the time to publish every move Obama and his family makes 24/7?

    December 27, 2008 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
  3. mjc

    CNN: Why aren't your press following President George Bush around every moment of each day and reporting all of this frivolous nonsense? How is this News? The MSM has truly become irrelevant!

    December 27, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  4. Blayze Kohime

    @Messiah watch
    They are cocktail party marxists because they ditched reporters and went to a sea animal exhibit? Do you have an unnatural hatred for sea life or something?

    December 27, 2008 09:52 am at 9:52 am |
  5. chris

    It's amazing the amount of vacation coverage the medial deems as "vital", yet it's not vital for the media such as CNN to cover folks like Ron Paul while they are running for President. It's hilarious how many interviews CNN gave Ron Paul after McCain won the nomination, compared to how much coverage they gave him before that point.

    CNN, I would have so much more respect for you if you had said we decided NOT to cover this event and instead go find something else more newsworthy.

    Most of this article was a defense of why you felt you needed to cover this story, rather than the story itself.

    December 27, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  6. James

    We Americans became even worse than British in our obsession with celebs. Our media readily helps us to create new royalty. What did we vote for? For OUR beter future or for a new royal family?

    December 27, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  7. Wally©

    This guy is sooooooo slick !!!!

    December 27, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  8. yellow dog democrat

    Well for ill or good – this man and his family are in the limelight....I mean what else is new – this type of voyourism is our "favorite recreation" – gossip and envy are as old as the hills.

    On the bright side – many can identify with this new 1st family – he is a lot like us.....came from a simple but struggling background – was guided by his elders and he listened – look where it got him!! we should all pay attention to good guidance. (Michelle too!) – It is hard for me to absorb that this man actually made it to the White House – its almost like a miracle these days that someone from privilege or some family rich and powerful isn't the one heading for one of the most powerful and prestigeous occupations on earth!

    Bless you and your family & you Administration Barrack Obama.

    December 27, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  9. Jerad in WA

    Give me a break people, how much time and resources are being spent on this drivel when people are dying in Iraq, Afghanistan, Darfur, the Niger Delta, and Zimbabwe, the economy is in the toilet, illegal drug use is rampant, and our schools and infrastructure are crumbling. No wonder Madoff and Blago got away with it as long as they did, the media was more interested in the color of their underwear than reporting on their official conduct. Talk about a failure of the press to live up to the standard expected by their enshrinement in the First Amendment.

    December 27, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  10. Dan

    Big deal. The man needs a vacation before the trip to hell aka he finds out all the nation's problems have been grossly understated by W. When President Obama starts going to Hawaii every other day coughs Crawford Ranch, then it should be news.

    December 27, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  11. Jonny C.

    I think there is too much press around him. Are they reporting on him or spying on him? He might tempted to say something to keep the press writing, and those words might be twisted, especially by fox news reporter.
    I am a conservative Christian, but I don t like the way fox news cover Obama, especially during the presidential campaign.
    Obama: "put the Journalists Beer on my tab", the press refused.
    Obama: "Let the Journalists have some shaved ice", the Press refused. what is the press afraid of ? this is the second time the press is turning
    an offer from Obama down.But I am sure those offers were not meant to
    buy the power of the press.

    December 27, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  12. g

    so when did CNN become a tabloid?

    December 27, 2008 09:57 am at 9:57 am |
  13. ken

    HEY CNN!

    N O B O D Y C A R E S ! ! !

    stop being idiots and do some real reporting!!!

    December 27, 2008 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  14. Naol

    he did not call them(the press) in the middle of the night, he asked them in a public during the day. How do you feel if i stand in front of you while you eat? Would you ask me if i want to have some or you just ignore me? when did being nice to people become a sin in USA? you guys are sick, do you know that? You can go ahead and criticize him, as you always has been, but shame on you!!

    December 27, 2008 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  15. Lauren

    He is only getting what he created. Obama has created a Hollywood type of following. He knew this when he started, now he can live with it.

    If he did not want the press following him, all he would have to do is snap his fungers, tell the secret service, get them out of here. You will not convince me he does not WANT this type of coverage. He basks in the glory of the being who is his.

    I agree it is poor reporting, and I do not care what he wears or where he plays. But Obama skillfully created a cult following, just like movie stars and musical stars, pro atheletes also.
    If he did not WANT the attention, he could end it easily. He is the leader, or will be the leader of the free world, all he has to do is say keep the press away from him during his personal time. When on the job, he is fair game. But he can stop this star quality reporting in a heartbeat. Tell me that is not true.

    December 27, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  16. Da Professor

    Over the next 8 years, Obama will make the comments by the right-wing extremists including those on the Fox Channel, look downright idiotic, not that most of their comments now do not appear that way.

    It comes as no surprise to intelligent foks that the right-wing led Republican Party went down the toilet during the last election.

    Odd that for the last 8 years we heard very little from the so-called left wing media about the draft dodging group of Bush, Cheney, Rove, and Rumsfeld (not one served in Viet Nam) in the White House that can start wars based on lies, think that an occupation can be won, and serve as our Commander-In-Chief.

    Obama will make that right-wing group look like grade school drop-outs. Just a few days more of the fools and we will be free of them!

    December 27, 2008 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  17. Barb it OK for his vacation to be paid with private donations, but Palin was crusified for getting clothes paid for with "donations"? Talk about double standards.

    December 27, 2008 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  18. MK

    I hope he didn't give his secret service detail the slip too, so many hate filled crazies, like the ones who post here, are out to get him. He can leave the press behind all he wants but never his security.

    As for the "song" in TN, I expect nothing less from the state. As far as I can tell that state is filled with hillbilly bigots. The whole state should be ashamed of it's "leaders" in the republican party. I suspect the whole state would be ashamed if they had a different opinion from the their "leaders", but they don't. Like I have said before (and it has never been posted.... "awaiting moderation" CNN) we should have let the state go when they wanted, we would all be better without them and the hate they spew.

    As for wether or not CNN will post this reply, my guess is that they won't. Too many other less rational posts will get thru and mine will "await" moderation for eternity.

    December 27, 2008 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  19. SB

    The press has become rediculous. We don't need to know every move the first family makes. It's rediculous. Vacation should be private. I am ashamed of our press corp.

    The press has become rediculous. We don't need to know every move the first family makes. It's rediculous. Vacation should be private. I am ashamed of our press corp.

    The press has become rediculous. We don't need to know every move the first family makes. It's rediculous. Vacation should be private. I am ashamed of our press corp.

    December 27, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  20. yellow dog democrat

    OH and to all the complainers, whiners, and naysayers – I hear that Sarah (yep the very same) is putting out a calander – go buy yourself one and stare at that for awhile and leave the rest of us alone for heavens sake!

    December 27, 2008 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  21. GDawg lives

    CNN, ABC & CBS news is covering this story on their websites. I didn't see anything on Fox News or MSNBC about Obama and Hawaii.

    I'm glad Obama ditched the reporters, hopefully he keeps doing that. I would if I were President.

    Some reporters are very annoying.

    December 27, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  22. Amber

    Messiah watch:
    Cocktail party liberals? Really?

    He offered the press shaved ice. You know what shaved ice is, right? It's like a $1.99 snow cone.

    What you said was pretty unintendedly funny, though. I had this vision of Obama picking up the tab on roadside fois gras! Ha ha ha!

    Listen, I know that your comments were spawned from a place of intended negativity, but you gave this young liberal with the flu at Christmas a heart-felt chuckle. Thank you!

    December 27, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  23. proudliberal-independent

    leave him alone!

    December 27, 2008 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  24. The Real Issue

    The Real Issue Americans is if the press had followed Pres. Bush and VP Cheney this close, perhaps we would not have 2 wars and the weakest economy!!!! Media gave Bush a blank check just like he gave Wall Street one.

    December 27, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  25. Hawkeye

    I wonder if his auntie who is in our country illegaly is with him? Why doesn't the media report on her whereabouts ?

    December 27, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
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