President Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney defended the decision to shut out the press to Mr. Obama’s golf weekend with Tiger Woods in Florida, though he said that he is “sympathetic” to the frustrations of covering the White House.
After being peppered with questions about not allowing even one photo-op for reporters traveling with the president over the weekend, Mr. Carney on Tuesday pledged to work every day to provide the media access to the president.
“I am completely sympathetic, having covered two White Houses, to the difficulties of the job of covering any White House, and to the desire for more and more access,” Mr. Carney, a former reporter for Time magazine, told reporters. “We work every day with you and others to provide that, and we will continue to do that.”
Despite the promise, just seconds later Mr. Carney declined to say whether the press corps would have an opportunity to ask Mr. Obama questions during a meeting Friday with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Anticipating the series of questions about access after a feud with the press corps about the Florida trip went public over the weekend, Mr. Carney had a few statistics at the ready.
He argued that President Obama has given 35 solo news conferences — almost twice as many as President George W. Bush and 591 interviews, 104 of which were with major television networks. He did not define what constitutes a solo news conference or the length of each and how they compared to the length of each solo news conference and number of questions asked at them during Mr. Bush’s time in office.
Despite his repeated vows of sympathy, Mr. Carney brushed aside the concern among reporters over the weekend about the lack of access.
“The events of this weekend? You mean the fact that the president wanted to play golf with a golf pro?” he asked.
On Sunday, Mr. Henry, the acting president of the White House Correspondents Association, issued a formal complaint after reporters who traveled down to Florida with the president were kept at bay during the weekend and forced to hole up in a van with not even one Obama sighting.
“A broad cross-section of our members from print, radio, online and TV have today expressed extreme frustration to me about having absolutely no access to the president of the United States this entire weekend,” he said.
On the return trip home, Mr. Obama held an off-the-record session with the press corps on Air Force One for about 10 minutes.