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White House reporters get flak
No-access to Obama complaints garner little sympathy
The tables turned on the White House press corps on Day 3 of the dust-up with President Obama over the White House's decision to shut out reporters during Mr. Obama's all-guy golf weekend vacation with Tiger Woods in Florida.
Critics of the White House press corps, which the right regularly lampoons for failing to hold Mr. Obama's feet to the fire, say the outrage over the lack of access to a golf outing, instead of a more serious news event or policy, is par for the course and only underscores their inability to get around the White House determination to stage-manage the popular image of the president.
Richard Benedetto, a retired White House reporter for USA Today who now teaches journalism at American University, said it was past time for the White House press corps to come to grips with Mr. Obama's stricter, across-the-board media access restrictions.
"All of a sudden the White House press corps is waking up to the fact that they have been shut out of a lot of things," he said.
Having covered every president from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush, Mr. Benedetto said Mr. Obama grants far less access to the press than his predecessors. Unlike Mr. Obama, previous presidents, for instance, would take at least one question during photo ops at the beginning of meetings, would have much longer press conferences and even would take at least one question before teeing off for a round of golf.
Mr. Obama's golfing weekend "is just a symbol of what's going on during the Obama presidency -- there is a pattern of being shut out," Mr. Benedetto said.
On Sunday, the White House press corps that traveled with Mr. Obama to Florida was kept at bay while Mr. Obama golfed with Mr. Woods and a tight-knit group of friends. Reporters were forced to spend their time holed up in a van far from where Mr. Obama was playing.
The press corps was all the more frustrated after a reporter from Golf Digest, who happened to be in the exclusive resort community where Mr. Obama played, started tweeting and reporting about the president's game with Mr. Woods.
On Sunday, Ed Henry, Fox News' White House correspondent and the acting president of the White House Correspondents Association, issued a formal complaint.
"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.
In an apparent attempt to mend fences, Mr. Obama held a 10-minute off-the-record visit with the reporters on Air Force One on the way back to Washington on Monday evening, but the damage had been done.
White House press secretary Jay Carney was peppered with questions about the lack of access during his daily briefing with reporters Tuesday.
"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, said. "We work every day with you and others to provide that, and we will continue to do that."
Despite the promise, just moments later Mr. Carney declined to say whether the press corps would have an opportunity to ask Mr. Obama questions during a meeting Friday with visiting Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Mr. Carney 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 compare the number of questions Mr. Obama had taken compared with Mr. Bush.
Despite his repeated vows of sympathy, Mr. Carney brushed aside the concern among reporters about the lack of access to the golf round.
"The events of this weekend? You mean the fact that the president wanted to play golf with a golf pro?" he asked.
Conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer on Tuesday mocked the White House press corps for using a round of golf as the reason to complain about the Obama administration's lack of transparency.
"He wants privacy? Big deal. This is the biggest nonstory that the media have created since the Kardashian weddings," Mr. Krauthammer told Fox News' Bill O'Reilly Tuesday.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Susan Crabtree is an award-winning investigative reporter with more than 15 years of reporting experience in Washington, D.C. Her reporting about bribery, corruption and conflict-of-interest issues on Capitol Hill has led to several FBI and ethics investigations, as well as consequences for members within their caucuses and at the ballot box. Susan can be reached at email@example.com.
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