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White House spokesman Carney faces his toughest challenge yet
Challenge? Last week, the press secretary got his wish.
The administration had wanted to focus on an upbeat event pegged to Mother’s Day that would begin a summerlong promotion of the president’s health care overhaul.
Instead, the president’s communications team, led by Mr. Carney, was hit with a double whammy: damaging revelations from whistleblowers at Wednesday’s Benghazi hearing on Capitol Hill, as well as news that Internal Revenue Service officials in Ohio admitted to targeting conservative groups for special scrutiny.
White House officials knew early on it was going to be a rough day — and they took time to prepare.
A briefing originally scheduled for just after noon was rescheduled three times before eventually being held just before 4 p.m. Reporters patiently waited, milling about in the press briefing room and in their workspace beyond.
Then the news broke that Mr. Carney and his press team had held a secret, background briefing for a select group of reporters on Benghazi.
Word spread quickly on Twitter as angry members of the White House press corps sounded off about not being invited and previous GOP press secretaries scolded Mr. Carney for engaging in undemocratic favoritism on such a difficult news day for the administration.
“Time Magazine reporter Jay Carney would have been the 1st person to object to how the WH is handling the press today,” tweeted Ari Fleischer, who served as press secretary for President George W. Bush and fielded Mr. Carney’s questions when he was a reporter.
When the public news conference finally took place Friday afternoon, Mr. Carney faced a 58-minute barrage of questions, the vast majority of which focused on Benghazi or the IRS’ political targeting.
Until Friday’s outburst, many White House reporters had dismissed the story as a partisan dust-up without any real legs and hadn’t really pressed the issue.
Richard Benedetto, a retired White House correspondent and columnist for USA Today and a professor of journalism at American University, said up until last week, Mr. Carney had successfully redirected questions about Benghazi to the Department of Defense or the State Department.
“I think there’s more to it than that,” Mr. Benedetto said. “It’s a legitimate story to be investigated by any reporter deeded to the White House beat.”
© 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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