White House spokesperson Bill Burton responded to questions about the National Endowment for the Arts August 10 conference call to ABC News reporter Jake Tapper.:
“The point of the call was to encourage voluntary participation in a national service initiative by the arts community,” White House spokesman Bill Burton told ABC News. “To the extent there was any misunderstanding about what the NEA may do to support the national service initiative, we will correct it. We regret any comments on the call that may have been misunderstood or troubled other participants. We are fully committed to the NEA’s historic mission, and we will take all steps necessary to ensure that there is no further cause for questions or concerns about that commitment.”
…White House officials say they are enacting specific steps to make sure such a call never happens again.
Today White House officials are meeting with the chiefs of staff of the executive branch agencies to discuss rules and best practices in this area, a conversation during which they will be told that that while White House lawyers do not believe that the NEA call violated the law, “the appearance issues troubled some participants,” Burton said. “It is the policy of the administration that grant decisions should be on the merits and that government officials should avoid even creating the incorrect appearance that politics has anything to do with these decisions.”
…Burton added that the White House will be issuing a formal memo for White House staff “to that effect and will be doing training sessions and personal visits with staff here to make sure the message gets across.”