Free Markets, Free People

Was A Question Staged at Yesterday’s Presser?

If so, in terms of presidential press conferences, that’s a real “freedom of the press” no-no. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post is pretty sure that a question from the Huffington Post was, in fact, staged:

After the obligatory first question from the Associated Press, Obama treated the overflowing White House briefing room to a surprise. “I know Nico Pitney is here from the Huffington Post,” he announced.

Milbank reports that he knew Pitney was there because Pitney had been contacted by the White House and was escorted by White House staffers to the reporters area and told he’d probably be called on. Milbank takes it from there:

Pitney asked his arranged question. Reporters looked at one another in amazement at the stagecraft they were witnessing. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel grinned at the surprised TV correspondents in the first row.

The use of planted questioners is a no-no at presidential news conferences, because it sends a message to the world — Iran included — that the American press isn’t as free as advertised.

I bring this up because while it may seem trivial to some, it points to the lengths this White House will go to stage manage even such events as press conferences. Manipulation of the press is usually much more circumspect than this and doing it as they did with a grinning Rahm Emanuel standing on the sidelines points to a certain arrogance and cavalier attitude toward the tradition of freedom of the press.

But yesterday’s daytime drama belonged primarily to Pitney, of the Huffington Post Web site. During the eight years of the Bush administration, liberal outlets such as the Huffington Post often accused the White House of planting questioners in news conferences to ask preplanned questions. But here was Obama fielding a preplanned question asked by a planted questioner — from the Huffington Post.

Pitney said the White House, though not aware of the question’s wording, asked him to come up with a question about Iran proposed by an Iranian. And, as it turned out, he was not the only prearranged questioner at yesterday’s show. Later, Obama passed over the usual suspects to call on Macarena Vidal of the Spanish-language EFE news agency. The White House called Vidal in advance to see whether she was coming and arranged for her to sit in a seat usually assigned to a financial trade publication. She asked about Chile and Colombia.

Milbank says what wasn’t discussed was Afghanistan, Iraq, or many other critical topics with the time, instead, given to those with the prearranged questions. Not good. Not healthy. But, as Milbank points out, pretty ironic.

Part 2 happens tonight with the ABC informercial for the President’s health care plan.

From watchdogs to lapdogs, the media, with the exception of those like Milbank, simply play along.


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22 Responses to Was A Question Staged at Yesterday’s Presser?

  • Obama’s “Jeff Gannon” moment?

  • I suppose the most surprising part to me is that Dana Milbank actually said something about this — I thought he was a standard Post liberal hack. Maybe I misjudged him.

  • Nice message from Baracky to his lapdogs – stay in line (especially on healthcare) or you can easily be replaced by some web-based hack

  • No, he’s a hack. His turf was just threatened a bit is all.

  • shark – “No, he’s a hack. His turf was just threatened a bit is all.”

    One wonders how long MiniTru is going to continue to be… well… MiniTru.  It’s one thing to be (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) “impartial” reporters of the the president, his policies, the First Lady’s biceps, how cute the kids are, etc; it’s quite another to be openly reduced to Pravda-like mouthpieces.  Emmanuel grinning like a striped ape at the reporters MIGHT be pushing things a bit too far.  As long as MiniTru can PRETEND that they’re impartial and the White House PRETENDS to believe them, the charade is sustainable.  When people stop bothering to even pretend… Well, perhaps Millbank won’t be the last to report that the White House is so openly stacking the deck.

  • el presidente learned the fine art of stage craft from the best, those texican thugs who preceded him.  he even did them one better, check out the pecs from the hawaian vacation.  w couldn’t pull that off,  and i’m pretty sure he stuffed some socks in that flight suit during his misson accomplished photo op.
    adios amigos,  pedro is off to hike the appalachain trail .  pedro always wanted to see buenas aires.

  • If you’re gonna play the part of a pimp’s bitch, you should expect to play it right.
    The Press suddenly wants to pretend to be a lady I guess.
    To paraphrase GB Shaw  – “Obama knows what they are, they’re just suprised at the price”.

  • Hmmm, that sounds like Pedro.  He thinks the Appalachian trail goes to South America.

  • From what I have read, it was a put up job, but like the Iranian election was handled, this question actually wasn’t handled well by Obama.
    If you’re going to do a “put up job,” the least they can do is script it right so it comes off as a great question and answer.
    In this case, the question was pretty good, but Obama wasn’t up to the task of answering it.

  • We know Pedro would never carry Governors Sanford’s water…must be planning on carrying his pack instead.
    Pity, he could stay home and carry Barney Frank’s water for him.  Senior Barney would be very very grateful to a mexican ‘houseboy’ with the right attitude I’m sure.  He might even help Pedro buy a nice condo near South Station or Storrow Drive.  His connection with Fanny as a legislator is well known, si?

  • pedro did inquire, but senor barney didn’t have an opening for poor pedro.  pedro absolutely intended the pun.

  • Wait, there are questions at an Obama pressed that aren’t prearranged?

  • What was the question and answer anyway?

    I saw the part where he answered Fox News and (I think) CBS where they were taking him to task for his timidity over Iran. No matter how many times I see it, I am still appalled at his behavior and his body language.

    His response is that of a spoiled child; he becomes bitter, sarcastic, exasperated, condescending. As in: ‘How dare the press have the temerity to question my actions?’ It shows a lack of class and that his alleged “coolness” is more mythical than legendary.

  • All those traits were evident in the debates.  Only then he couldn’t pull the “I’m President” or “I won” card yet and had to restrain himself.   That’s no longer a problem for him.
    And one of these days he’s going to have an major explosion, it’s just a question of time in this job and the probability will increase as his plans go awry.

  • Pedro – seems like you could have carried the governor Sanford’s Viagra bag to Argentina for him.
    In general – is there any chance we can close down the establishment called the United States of America for a 6 month house cleaning?   This insanity stacked on insanity is beginning to remind me of the late 60’s/early 70’s.
    Anyone decent left in government these days?

  • looker: And one of these days he’s going to have an major explosion, it’s just a question of time in this job and the probability will increase as his plans go awry.
    … and that is when his popularity numbers will go down the toilet
    Face it .. the guy is so cool  … He’s the Man .. and that plays better than just being …

  • I am sure that Pedro has an “opening” for that Barney would like.

  • Pedro always carries Barneys “water” and always in his mouth

  • pedro is back.  they don’t like mexicans in argentina.  who knew?   it does warm the cockles of pedro’s heart that there are still some republicans who cheat old school style, with the  wimens.
    the big state funeral for teddy is a mere months away and pedro was worried about who was going to carry on the torch of boozing and whoring.  we can’t count on those westerners. all queers and steers, with predilections for young boys.  god bless the carolinas!   both parties still got it!

  • I suspect that Barney is typically the “recipient”….

  • Ah, and the bitches staged a small uprising because they just discovered that we might actually conclude that staging questions might lead us to think those staged questions happen all the time.
    They give Little Gibbsey a going over – well deserved.
    Be nice if they did their jobs like this a little more often, you know, actually QUESTION the anointed one’s actions.
    I think the conclusion should be they don’t mind playing softball with the administration, but if they’re going to ask important questions about the Obama dog, or Michelle’s wardrobe, they want everyone to know it’s THEIR question dammit, not one planted by the President ahead of time!

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