President Barack Obama has been avoiding the White House press corps in a bid to avoid taking hard-hitting questions in the middle of an election cycle, but he is giving interviews to reporters from local news organizations throughout the Nation. The only condition is that he gets to choose the questions.
According to White House press corps reporter Keith Koffler, Obama spoke to press corps reporters on Monday for about 20 minutes and took questions from four reporters. The exchange was not exactly in-depth or hard-hitting.
But the President has been talking to members of local media, particularly in swing States. On Monday, he spoke with reporters from Norfolk, Va., and Jacksonville, Fla., as well as one from San Diego. The President’s chosen topic: blaming Republicans for automatic military spending cuts that will take place under sequestration if a budget agreement is not reached.
Koffler notes that all three reporters represent areas that benefit heavily from defense contracting.
From FCN Jacksonville (watch the interview here):
WASHINGTON — On Monday afternoon, First Coast News anchor Donna Deegan sat down with President Barack Obama for a one-on-one interview.
They talked about Medicare, and how Jacksonville’s military could be affected if potential sequestration cuts go through.
From NBC 7 San Diego (watch the interview here):
President Barack Obama sits down in an exclusive interview with NBC 7 military reporter Lea Sutton to discuss the impact of sequestration on San Diego’s military community.
From WVEC Norfolk (watch the interview here):
WASHINGTON, DC–President Barack Obama hopes to avoid painful defense cuts that could come about under the congressional sequestration process.
In an exclusive interview with 13News, the president said he doubts any deal can be reached before the November election, but he’s confident big military reductions will not actually take place.
Virginia stands to lose 207,000 jobs and $21 billion in economic impact, according to a George Mason University study…
The reporters were each given less than 10 minutes for their interviews, leaving very little opportunity for the reporters to steer the conversation from the President’s topic of choice.
A quote from former President John F. Kennedy — to whom Obama is often compared — as he spoke to members of the American Newspaper Publishers Association on April 27, 1961 comes to mind in considering the current President’s media manipulation.
No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary. I am not asking your newspapers to support an Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.
I not only could not stifle controversy among your readers– I welcome it. This Administration intends to be candid about its errors; for as a wise man once said: “An error does not become a mistake until you refuse to correct it.” We intend to accept full responsibility for our errors; and we expect you to point them out when we miss them.
In the same speech Kennedy noted that the press is Constitutionally protected “not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and sentimental, not to simply ‘give the public what it wants’—but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.”
Obama aide Stephanie Cutter recently explained that the Administration believes “Entertainment Tonight” is just as important as the White House press corps to informing the American people. Even without real reporting, that statement and the President’s actions raise questions for many about the contempt the “most-transparent Administration in history” holds for a well-informed populace.