Wednesday, July 13, 2011

WH Cracks Down on Press: No Yelling at Obama Today...President 'chafes' at unscripted questions...

A long-running tiff between the White House press corps and the West Wing over presidential access flared anew today when press secretary Jay Carney faced off with reporters over the right to shout questions at the president during debt talks.

Obama chafes at the time-honored practice of answering questions shouted at him during pooled, non-press conference events — and his staff has often opted for "stills sprays," excluding print reporters or TV cameras who might capture Obama in the less than flattering non-act of snubbing a query.

When asked today why TV crews and print reporters were barred from the pool covering the White House meeting with congressional leaders on the deficit, Carney responded by pointing out that the administration has held two press conferences in the past two weeks and allowed TV cameras into the spray earlier this week.

"People shouted questions at him," Carney said. He then added, "The purpose of the meeting is not to create a circus, but to negotiate, so today we're doing stills only."

The White House Correspondents' Association has protested exclusion of print and TV from pools — and several reporters in the briefing room took Carney's comment as an annoyed expression of presidential displeasure with shouted questions.

"It's an absurd reason to say that because we asked questions you're not going to allow cameras in there. He's capable of ignoring our questions. He does it all the time," said Chip Reid of CBS.

Carney, a former Time magazine White House reporter, shot back with, "I appreciate your opinion."

It didn't end there. "Can I ask you to clarify — there's no reporters allowed in today's meeting because reporters misbehaved?" asked another scribe. "Earlier it sounded like you were punishing us."

Carney said he meant no such thing. "Look, as you know, we have had — different meetings have different levels of access, and we do it on a case-by-case basis. We have had — the president has taken questions quite a lot lately, as you know, and so he's not taking questions today. He may tomorrow. Or he may later, you know, but today, we're just doing a still spread, which is not unprecedented. We have done them in a lot of meetings."'

"I used to be where you are, and I used to ask questions," the former journalist reminded his press corps.