CBS Promotes Obama PR Video As Sign of ‘Transparency’

At the top of Monday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith touted a White House-produced video: "And your letters to the President...A behind-the-scenes look at how President Obama keeps in touch with everyday Americans." After airing the administration spin, co-host Maggie Rodriguez argued it was "all part of Obama’s promise of transparency in the people’s White House."

Smith introduced the latest White House public relations push by declaring: "Beginning today, the Obama administration is giving Americans a behind-the-scenes look into the inner workings of the White House. This morning we have an exclusive look at how the letters of every day Americans make their way to the President’s desk."

The video that followed featured a montage of President Obama in the Oval Office dubbed with his narration: "These letters, I think, do more to keep me in touch with what’s happening around the country than just about anything else....It gives you a sense of what’s best about America and inspires you and makes you want to work that much harder to make sure that spirit is reflected in our government."

After the clip ended, Smith followed up by reading some additional White House talking points: "And the interesting thing is the President says he ends every day by getting a sheaf of these letters and reading through. And they’ve been very specifically culled so they represent different people from different places in the country and different concerns. And that sure would be a very sobering little set of documents to look at."

Rodriguez then revealed an email exchange with the director of the White House video press release, with whom she was on a first name basis: "We’ve been emailing with Jason, the director of video from the White House this morning, and he says ‘there’s no limit to how many of these we’ll make. In the future, you can look for things like behind-the-scenes at state dinners, interesting jobs like butlers, calligraphers, grounds keepers, speech writers, event planners.’" She then claimed: "So we’re going to get all part of Obama’s promise of transparency in the people’s White House, an inside look, and all you have to do is go to WhiteHouse.gov/video."

Co-host Julie Chen agreed with Rodriguez’s assessment: "Wow, sounds like, yeah, transparency is definitely in motion here."

Here is a full transcript of the segment:

7:00AM TEASE:

HARRY SMITH: And your letters to the President.

BARACK OBAMA: These letters, I think, do more to keep me in touch with what’s happening around the country than just about anything else.

SMITH: A behind-the-scenes look at how President Obama keeps in touch with everyday Americans.

7:20AM TEASE:

SMITH: And still to come, a behind-the-scenes look at how your letters make their way to President Obama.

7:30AM TEASE:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Coming up, we have an exclusive look for you at the first in a series of videos that take us inside the White House, behind the scenes. Today we’re looking at the White House Correspondence Department that handles tens of thousands of letters every day. They’re going to show us how the letters make their way to President Obama’s desk, why they choose some and not others, and we also learned that Bo, the first dog, has his own mailbox. But it doesn’t say Bo. You know what it says? Dog.

SMITH: First Dog?

RODRIGUEZ: It just says dog.

7:37AM SEGMENT:

HARRY SMITH: Beginning today, the Obama administration is giving Americans a behind-the-scenes look into the inner workings of the White House. This morning we have an exclusive look at how the letters of every day Americans make their way to the President’s desk.

[FOOTAGE OF WHITE HOUSE PRODUCED PR VIDEO]

BARACK OBAMA: These letters, I think, do more to keep me in touch with what’s happening around the country than just about anything else. Some of them are funny. Some of them are angry. A lot of them are sad or frustrated about their current situation.

MIKE KELLEHER [DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF CORRESPONDENCE]: We get 65,000 paper letters every week and our job is to take all that information and respond individually to all those folks so they know that the President is listening.

OBAMA: It gives you a sense of what’s best about America and inspires you and makes you want to work that much harder to make sure that spirit is reflected in our government.

SMITH: And the interesting thing is the President says he ends every day by getting a sheaf of these letters and reading through. And they’ve been very specifically culled so they represent different people from different places in the country and different concerns. And that sure would be a very sobering little set of documents to look at.

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Well, we’ve heard him mention those letters in news conferences. He brings them to cabinet meetings to show them examples. And Jules, we’ve been emailing with Jason, the director of video from the White House this morning, and he says ‘there’s no limit to how many of these we’ll make. In the future, you can look for things like behind-the-scenes at state dinners, interesting jobs like butlers, calligraphers, grounds keepers, speech writers, event planners.’ So we’re going to get all part of Obama’s promise of transparency in the people’s White House, an inside look, and all you have to do is go to WhiteHouse.gov/video.

JULIE CHEN: Wow, sounds like, yeah, transparency is definitely in motion here. I wonder if they would ever, one day, post on this website all the letters. Can you imagine? If you could – if you had access to all the letters that people are writing in?

RODRIGUEZ: That would be a heck of a job.

CHEN: Yeah, that would be one big website.

Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC