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. Carramea in Chicago

    MJC the press always has followed presidents. There are pictures of Bush driving his pick up at his ranch, Reagan chopping wood, this is nothing new. Obama doesnt have a large ranch he owns to retreat to

    December 27, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  2. JS from Texas

    Sometimes you guys are so full of it (most times I like you), but REALLY "record the important events" – – – a family going for shaved ice.

    I'm as guilty for reading it. I can safely say I've avoided Kaylee and many of your media stories.

    Bill Clinton has said that he made his bad decisions when he was tired. We want PE Obama to be successful. Report on what he does about the country. Let him be a Dad and on vacation.

    December 27, 2008 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  3. hehe

    I'm just pleased that Obama tricked the media – even for a second. You go, boy....=) He and his beautiful family deserve to enjoy each other in peace every chance they can. His beautiful children are just trying to enjoy their father – doing normal things like going to the Sea Life Park – in peace. Respect them. Yes, he is our PE, but he's also just a regular man and father, first and foremost.

    December 27, 2008 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  4. Bradley

    Many of us hope that Obama will rescue the United States from its serious slippage in world leadership.

    The task of rescuing the U.S from so many serious leadership and societal shortcomings will likely be more than even he can handle.

    The world hopes that he can.

    As for media coverage leave the guy alone and come back in January when he and the U.S start to look at ways to rebuild a country in a steep decline.

    December 27, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  5. beartrack

    There appear to be at least two trends in the posts on this "non-news" item. First is that most of think that the "media" have gone way too far in covering the Obama family. They have all become low life paparazzi looking for those "gotcha" moments, rather than being real reporters. The second thing that is apparent from the posts is that people like Reggie92 and Messiah Watch, are still as hateful and ignorant as ever and should go back to their friends at Fox.

    December 27, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  6. JS

    tishoogle says we're all bigot haters for hating Obama. For that, he says, we should leave the country and the country would be better off without us. If that's what liberals think republicans should do, then why didn't all the liberals leave when Bush was in office and everyone was hating him?

    December 27, 2008 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  7. California Gold

    James, I understand your aggravation with some of the posts. Conspiracy theorists are so "colorful" albeit impertinent and irrelevant. But they don't seem to be bothered by that. LOL.

    Frankly given the severity of problems it's nice to be reminded that family life and simple family outtings: brother and sister with their families enjoying a theme park still exist. It's nice to be reminded of the simple pleasures. It's a refreshing balance. Today I'm taking my kids out for some quality time together. Thanks for the reminder CNN.

    December 27, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  8. Andrea Norman, VA


    Nobody cares what you think. All the racist and homofobs – out of this room!

    December 27, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  9. Obamania

    The whole purpose of this article was for CNN to strut around and say that they were the only press agents not given the slip. Who cares.

    December 27, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  10. Apples for sale

    Obama is cool and collected.@Messiah watch,you need some serious mental help with your multiple personality disorder.Help and medication are available for free.Please seek help,all of us here want you to get well im sure.Try turning off your AM radio for a week and clear your mind and then see if someone can take you for the aid you need.

    December 27, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  11. Harris

    He offers shaved ice to the reports? All they should get is a an up yours gesture from the secret service. He was probably hospitable enough to offer these idiots something.

    To those who think that Obama is a crook! U'all should get a life!

    December 27, 2008 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  12. Bev

    Reggie92 – Check your calendar. Obama is NOT the President yet – won't happen until January 20th. My only criticism of Obama is that he really should have toned down where he stayed. When so many in the country are dealing with unemployment, he could have stayed at a much more modest place. His choice of accommodations lacks sensitivity, as far as I'm concerned. A king he is not.

    December 27, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  13. virginia for obama

    @ Irritated in Fl – You really need a couch. Go out and enjoy Your life and get Your mind off of Your P.E. BARACKKKKKKK OBAMAAAAAA!
    Got a nice ring to it don't it Irriated.

    December 27, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  14. fred

    when you offer the media food, that's like feeding ducks. They don't go away when you offer them stuff like that. Obama, you really don't want these guys following you for the next 4 years. That's not right for your family.

    December 27, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  15. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Normally I support CNN's reporting ofthe news, but a family going for a treat is news?!

    OK, then rerun the stories about the Bush Twins and their underage drinking tirades in Austin and Waco and what happened to the last officer that arrested them for underage drinking!

    December 27, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  16. C Spurgeon

    The press in this country needs to take a break..They are not the respected journalist of old. They are goosip mongers and at times act like vultures.

    December 27, 2008 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  17. Jamie

    "CNN was the only news organization to witness the park outing."

    very good CNN, do you want a cookie?

    December 27, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  18. eddie

    It's nice to know that my future president is relaxing in hawaii while my 401k and stocks are dropping.

    December 27, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  19. A

    Come on CNN, please move away from this glorified tabloid business.

    I always find it amazing, in the case of Ant's post above, how people continue to turn every single thing he does into an indication he will be a bad president. Furthermore, if he were to screw up because of his "lack of experience" then we are all screwed not just you buddy and it isn't our fault solely. It is people like you that pushed for more votes for Barack and contributed to his election. So in a way i thank you for your hard fought work. I have faith in his ability to lead, if you don't maybe you should run for office in 4 years. Don't complain if you aren't willing to play the game.

    December 27, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  20. George Ennis, Toronto, Canada

    What news story will CNN be breaking about this family outing?

    There is going to be some breaking news item on this, with follow up by AC 360 and Larry King Live?

    ....or could it just be that CNN is feeding the public pablum?

    December 27, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  21. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    Personal to Ant:

    And define Bush's experience for us when he took office?!

    At least Obama has a background of achievement, both academically and publicly.

    Bush? He was a drunken, coke-headed, frat boy lout! And he ran three companies into bankruptcy! Now, that's the experience he used to bankrupt the country!

    Why don't you find a huge island, set up your country and start a government. Would you invite Bush to run it for you?! I didn't think so!

    Quite frankly, if Obama fixes everything, walks on water and does the "loaves and fishes," you right-wing intelligentsia still wouldn't be happy!

    December 27, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  22. E.

    I am always surprised but I do not know why, when I read some of the malignant comments readers take the time to write (luckily a few). Why am I surprised? Because I am naive and I always wish people could bring out the best in them (if any) instead of the worst. Face it people, the PE is our choice to lead this country, America has spoken and we might finally have chance to have a better future.

    December 27, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  23. Happy in Florida

    Irritated in FL. and Ant, He is just driving you guy nuts isn’t he, with his 80% approval rating. You two, and your friend’s stay where you are, stay tuned, we got 8 more years of PRESIDENT OBAMA for you to whine and cry over. HAPPY DAYS ARE HERE AGAIN, 🙂 :-). Ya, just gotta love it, keep the tear drops coming.

    December 27, 2008 12:12 pm at 12:12 pm |
  24. DX in TX

    You hate mongers I hope and pray that you can find it in your hearts to be grateful to the Obama administration's efforts to better our lives or will you continue to bow down to the ways of the out of touch Republicans who create songs like "Magic Negro!" Republicans who belittle women by selecting a woman VP only because she is a woman and Republicans who call hard working American "A Nation of Whiners" because we feared for the economy while Republicans called the economy fundamentally strong!

    We're in this together...don't be a bone head!
    DX in TX

    December 27, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  25. J.C.

    No parents would want their children to become targets of paparazzi. Why did Caroline Kennedy want to stay out of spotlight when her children were young? Paparazzi and Princess Diana was a tragic memory. There is a big difference between being protected by secret service and being out of protection. Caroline and Diana were on the same boat – no more protection even with lots of paparazzi after them. You can't blame Caroline for disappearing from the public. She had no choice.

    December 27, 2008 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
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