The Corner

White House to Media: Sit Down and Don’t Interview

Even though Barack Obama rode into office in 2008 on a wave of media adulation, the Obama administration has exhibited a fiercely hostile attitude towards reporters. It has vigorously prosecuted low-level national-security leakers — while it ignores friendly leakers from the White House who puff up its image. This has led former Washington Post editor Leonard Downie to observe, “In the Obama administration’s Washington, government officials are increasingly afraid to talk to the press.” Last year, the Committee to Protect Journalists concluded that Obama “will surely pass President Richard Nixon as the worst president ever on issues of national security and press freedom.”

The White House’s contempt for the news-gathering process extends to the most petty incidents. On Monday, Michelle Obama came to Milwaukee to campaign for Democrat Mary Burke, who is challenging Governor Scott Walker. To the astonishment of reporter Meg Kissinger of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, aides to Obama and Burke told her she could not talk to the crowd at a Burke event in Milwaukee.

“Assigned to cover Michelle Obama’s speech today and was told by a Mary Burke aide and one for the White House that I could not speak to the people in the crowd,” she recounted on her Facebook page.

“To say that I was creeped out is an understatement. This is what reporters do in America: we speak to people. At least that’s how I’ve been doing things — at all kinds of political events — since 1979.”

In her story, Kissinger gave some flavor to the all-controlling nature of the Democratic event:  

“At the Burke event, a number of people in the crowd were upset about a lack of seating. Several people, including a woman using two canes, complained that she had nowhere to sit.

Reporters and photographers were cordoned off in a central area with chairs and tables. Several people in the crowd asked if they could have extra chairs reserved for the media — but reporters were initially forbidden from handing them over. Eventually, some of the Burke staff gave the extra chairs to attendees.”

President Obama himself has often demonstrated his thin skin when it comes to media coverage. In July, at a speech at Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, he complained that the media is ignoring his economic successes: “Right now, there are more job openings in America than any time since 2007. That doesn’t always make headlines. It’s not sexy, so the news doesn’t report it, but it’s a big deal.” That’s only one of many complaints Obama has made about media coverage

Last November, Obama he even used a news conference to lament that “the things that go right, you guys aren’t going to write about.”  

That sounds like the closest thing we’ll get from the White House as an explanation for the tactics it used to prevent full coverage of Michelle Obama’s speech in Wisconsin.

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