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Carney tries on new charm offensive
After enduring two weeks of withering criticism for his shifting narrative about the IRS targeting conservative groups and the White House's involvement in changing Benghazi talking points, White House spokesman Jay Carney made an obvious effort to try to curry a little favor with the White House press corps Wednesday.
The embattled presidential spokesman known for his lawyerly — sometimes arrogant — exchanges with reporters during his daily briefings turned 48 on Wednesday so he may have decided to turn over a new leaf. Or he may just be trying to hang onto his job.
Either way, he struck a far more humble and amiable tone, at one point even acknowledging that there has been "some legitimate criticisms about how we're handling this," adding "I say legitimate, because I mean it."
"It's part of our democracy, and it's a great part of our democracy," he said, as if to welcome more vigorous debate from a press corps that has been criticized for being too conciliatory from now on.
Just the day before he had a heated exchange with a reporter that backfired terribly and was included in several reporters' stories about the ongoing IRS firestorm. Mr. Carney had become visibly annoyed with a Bloomberg reporter's detailed questions about what White House aides knew about the IRS investigation and when they knew it.
The reporter reminded Mr. Carney that he had just chided the press for not asking enough questions to bring forth more information about all of the staff at the White House who knew about the IRS investigation in late April.
"Now I'm asking specific questions, and you're accusing me of being petulant," said Bloomberg's Hans Nichols.
"No one would ever accuse you of being petulant," Mr. Carney responded sarcastically.
"Or you of being forthcoming," Mr. Nichols retorted.
But Mr. Carney had a different tone one day later.
"You're good at your jobs and you're smart," he said, while explaining that the White House press operation is not always able to predict all the questions he will take each day.
The new charm offensive also came after a series of negative profiles, along with an assault of mocking jibes on Twitter.
The questions kept coming, Wednesday, but several reporters showed some civility as well, wishing Mr. Carney a happy birthday before turning to such thorny questions as why the former IRS commissioner visited the White House more than 100 times over the course of a year.
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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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