June 28th, 2009
06:52 PM ET
11 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. catmom

    For Republicans whining about people complaining about comments against Obama, do you think that if there were any, any thing positive coming from the right people would be commenting? It has been nothing but whining, complaining, bi!ching and moaning from the right. There is nothing, nada President Obama can do to please you people. You all have never given him a chance. THAT is what Obama supporters are commenting on. Get over yourselves. If Republicans/conservatives had not left this country in the shape it is in, President Obama wouldn't have so much to clean up. Hmmm...George Bush took office with a country doing reasonably well. Plentiful jobs, relative peace and prosperity, respect from other countries...That allowed him to vacation no sooner than he went to Washington. I'm sure President Obama would have loved to have a similar situation. Instead he is left with cleaning up a mess and the people responsible not taking responsibility for the mess they made.

    June 28, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  2. Molly Weasley

    The obvious point missed by Kurtz and Milbank is that NIco Pitney is the ONLY guy among them doing a thorough job, combing through thousands of e-mails and Tweets each day from Iranians. Note that his question was a question from an Iranian, not from a Washington journalist blowhard.

    There's a big difference between telling a blogger he might be called on at a news conference and having that blogger working overtime to get a good question from Iranian sources.

    I'm not sure Obama did such a good job of answering it. But Kurtz and Milbank are letting their jealousy show, and they've been trumped by a harder-working reporter.

    June 28, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  3. Audrey in VA

    Anyone who says the media is not in the tank for Obama is just delusional... even Obama has joked about being in bed with media. Its a shame that only a few networks and media outlets are actually doing their job and holding him accountable. Huff Post is doing such a disservice to the people by being WH PR.

    June 28, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  4. Michelle H

    i read these posts and just sit here and shake my head at you people. Especially funny are the people that proclaim they voted for Obama.

    Still drinking the Kool aid. Wonder when it's gonna hit home for people.

    if you haven't figured it out, i will give you just 1 example. GE owns NBC. NBC is one of the pro Obama networks. (well heck – they almost all are – and when they are not – he just complains about it) GE would like money for their wind turbines and clean energy initiatives. They are just sitting there, salivating at how much money they are going to make if this cap and trade energy bill goes through.

    Obama better push for the energy bill. He owes them after all.

    June 28, 2009 05:57 pm at 5:57 pm |
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