In an interview with Al-Jazeera America Tuesday, the executive editor of The New York Times described the Obama Administration “the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering” and said it’s inconceivable to think President Obama himself isn’t directly responsible for the cloak-and-dagger policies that have made it difficult for even hoary publications like The Times to get a straight answer.
Al Jazeera’s John Seigenthaler asked Jill Abramson, who’s served as NYT’s executive editor since 2011, to grade the Obama Administration’s transparency with traditional media outlets, and Abramson gave him more than an earful:
Seigenthaler: Let me move on to another topic in the Obama administration. How would you grade this administration, compared to others, when it comes to its relationship with the media?
Abramson: Well, I would slightly like to interpret the question as “How secretive is this White House?” which I think is the most important question. I would say it is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering, and that includes — I spent 22 years of my career in Washington and covered presidents from President Reagan on up through now, and I was Washington bureau chief of the Times during George W. Bush’s first term.
I dealt directly with the Bush White House when they had concerns that stories we were about to run put the national security under threat. But, you know, they were not pursuing criminal leak investigations. The Obama administration has had seven criminal leak investigations. That is more than twice the number of any previous administration in our history. It’s on a scale never seen before. This is the most secretive White House that, at least as a journalist, I have ever dealt with.
Seigenthaler: And do you think this comes directly from the president?
Abramson: I would think that it would have to. I don’t know that, but certainly enough attention has been focused on this issue that, if he departed from the policies of his government, I think we’d know that at this point.
Seigenthaler: So it makes it more difficult for The New York Times to do its job.
This from a woman who unflinchingly agreed, in the same interview, that “[t]here’s no question that the editorial stance of The New York Times is a liberal point of view.”
Abramson, of course, had plenty to say about the W. Bush years, too, although she cast the Bush Administration’s brand of deception as more innocent and clueless than the Obama White House’s self-willed information lockdown. Read the full interview here.