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. WAW

    The Secret Service will soon issue new orders for the protection of the president and family. Office Hours, business as usual. Any other time, one reporter, one camera (still, no video) and that's it. The "pool" can be on stand-by but not "with", ready for a "quick response" in a national emergency.

    January 20 will commence a new paradigm for the nation. We will be moving rapidly away from an empirical president. A president resembling a bank president or Wall St exec ( don't forget oil and insurance) will not make it (sorry Mitt). The US President will have to be able to relate to Mr and Ms Average Citizen (in reality not casting).

    The media will be forced to change. How? Simply follow the money. But the "new" thing will be to follow it down. From buyer of advertising to the consumer, in the "new" news era, the consumer will dictate methods and policies not the "media establishment".

    Rush, enjoy your money, it is about to dry up. You are being replaced by "the View".

    My prediction for the News Year.

    December 27, 2008 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  2. Mabel

    This was a family outing, they are entitled to some privacy. He is spending some quality time with his family after being away from them so much during the campaign. The press will have plenty of time to follow him around after Jan.20th, for now let them have some peace and quiet.

    December 27, 2008 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  3. JM

    It's nice to see the P.E. spending quality time with his family and finally paying his beloved Grandmother the respect she deserves. I hope them make this time as enjoyable for those little girls as possible before their lives are turned upside down by their move into the White House.

    December 27, 2008 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  4. republicans hate america

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

    So where were they for the last 8 years?

    December 27, 2008 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  5. Andrea in Philly

    NO Half-Relatives Please!!! Has anyone EVER heard Barack Obama refer to Maya as his HALF-Sister??? PLEASE STOP that SILLINES! Black people as a rule do not use the term "half" when referring to their siblings with one different parent-Especially not when they have the same MOTHER! Maya is his SISTER, Period! Black families do not make that distinction. It is divisive-as if she is LESS related to him. It is distressing that with all the obvious problems in the world the press has to dog the first family like vultures ALL the time!

    December 27, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  6. hankshrier

    To Saag,

    Perhaps when you say, spell your words properly, instead of "spell your words right", you will be taken more seriously.

    It's very disappointing that CNN did not find out what flavor each member of the Obama party had on the "Shave Ice". Its also distressing not to have an on camera interview with the creatures who were fed by the Obamas.:-)

    Let these people have some peace. Perhaps "The Obamas and their family will enjoy some quiet time free from the press. The power outage on the islad seems to be the only way for the first family to get a respite. Too bad the entire Island is in the dark so that the rest of us are in the dark about what the Obamas are doing. Good Luck Mr. President elect.

    December 27, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  7. Alicia

    Travis, everyone except the Native American Indian and Mexicans that were already on US soil are merely guests in this country. YOU are a guest in this young 200+ year old country. Get over yourself.

    How nice of President Obama to allow CNN after Campbell Brown stomped to make sure she was on during the 30 minute campaign infomercial speech which was the highest rated viewing ever!!!!

    **Doubt and will be shocked if CNN post this. I still watch CNN but cringe when the mention of Campbell Brown comes up.

    December 27, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  8. Gary

    Although he deserves his privacy he won't get it. I am sure if the press could report how many times he flushes the toilet they would report it.

    He deserves the rest before taking on the mammoth task of running the US and repairing world relations.

    One thing which I hope President-Elect Obama has been able to do is pay respects to his grandmother.

    And buying the press gifts is a kind gesture though some snidewad will probably see it as some kind of negative pandering.

    As a Canadian for the first time ever I will be glued to my tv and computer to watch the inaguration January 20th.


    December 27, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  9. REGGIE92

    Did he bring his half-brother from his hometown of Kenya with them?

    December 27, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  10. rachel

    You all need to stop getting so upset. You all are the one's reading stuff into the article. No where does it say that Obama was jerk for taking his girls to the park wthout the press. Obama is not bush and wont be treated like bush. Obama is the first African American president an amazing accomplishment and also a tremendous burden. Take the good with the bad and their ya have the facts of life I am sure Obama is aware of this. People keep saying this is a new age and the 21st century, well the 21st century is the age of intrusion, with, picture cell phones immediate internet access etc etc.

    December 27, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  11. VON BISMARK,Vienna.

    While he's spending his holydays in the quiet of HAWAII,Bush is busy preparing a rough ground for him in the Middle-East. Bush is a real incarnation of Hitler.
    He has a direct hand in the recent Isreali action in Gaza.

    December 27, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  12. phyllis

    who are you all kidding, egomaniac obama and his elitest wife love every minute of the attention. i can't wait until reaity kicks in and everyone realizes that this man and wife fooled the country.

    December 27, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  13. Charles H.

    CNN- are you kidding me? This article was the biggest waste of effort and resources! Focus on something newsworthy- and leave this type of reporting to the daily tabloids.

    December 27, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  14. tishoogle

    You bigot haters if you don't like our new elect president leave this country! This country would be better off without you people! Love Obama!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 27, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  15. Soccer Nana

    @Travis, Obama already has a "copy" of his birth certificate. Now, if you want one, go to Hawaii and BUY a copy for yourself, loser.

    December 27, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  16. CG

    What a misleading and calculated headline at the time of the Blagojevich situation. No Bias, No Bull, just innuendo.

    December 27, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  17. Pat Omaha, NE

    I hope PE Obama and family are having a wonderful time! Just like Crawford was the vacation destination for the Bush family, Hawaii is the vacation destination for the Obama family. People should get over it and leave them to their usual activities! Sure it's fun and yes, he does offer to buy beer and shave ice...he is aware of his position and is being polite.
    I enjoy the pictures and the stories...but find the complaints and accusations about his time there to be rather ignorant,,,or maybe it's just jealousy because Hawaii is MUCH more pleasant than TEXAS!!

    December 27, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
  18. BURNS



    December 27, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  19. REGGIE92

    Hey Madison, why should they leave his family alone? They were all over the Bush girls. Remember? And no, libs, he gets no breaks. All our Presidents didn't get any breaks why start now? He brought the spotlight to himself now he must deal with it. I just wish he would have ditched the press on Christmas day and went to church. He should have been in church thanking God for giving us his son Jesus. That is what a good father would have done. He has lost his faith and that will be his biggest failure. Oh, that's right he is the chosen one know. We must bow our heads and praise the great BO and thank him for all he does. He will provide us with clothing, shelter, and tax cuts. How wonderful it will all be. And he will tell us what we can read and listen to. All for our own sake.

    December 27, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  20. Matt

    Let the poor guy have some family time! Do we want him to be a great president and to take away his ability to be a great dad and raise kids too?

    The press needs some discretion... they should simply be willing to leave him and the family alone for some amount of time so that family life can be somewhat "normal"

    Is the press afraid that Obama is going to discuss his future plans for Guantanamo Bay with his 7 year old and that they will miss the discussion?

    Get real... Stop trying to "scoop" and balance reporting with consideration.

    December 27, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  21. Wayne D. PA

    Obama can't catch a break people are knocking him down before he can get up, that show you how America is realey is . People we need a prez rested and ready to go Hawaii turn the Lights back on so the Obama's can see.

    December 27, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  22. john

    Paparrazzi, not journalists!

    December 27, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  23. Amby

    All of us – including the ones who are saying that this is non news and Obama and his family should be left alone by the press – should not forget that we are here commenting only because we clicked on and read this news item!!! We are the ones who are encouraging the press to do what they are doing!!

    December 27, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  24. media hunter

    You guys are too funny! LOL back off PE Obama CNN.I remember when the media reported on real news,now it's like you guy are the paparazzi going crazy over some a pop star .that's why I watch local news now they do real reporting.cable news is the death to all news outlets CNN,MSNBC,and FAUX yep!!! You guys are killing the news with the petty garbage you report.

    December 27, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  25. Angie-OHIO

    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

    What planet have you been on or are you just a hater? The press was on him (negatively) from day 1. But him being a man of God put it on Him and took care of the at hand.

    December 27, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
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