As if the press hasn’t already been fawning over Obama enough, the White House resorted to coordinating a question with the Huffington Post at today’s press conference. Against White House protocol, the communications department contacted Huffington Post blogger Nico Pitney and asked him to query Obama on the specific subject of Iran for the second question of the press conference. Politico’s Michael Calderone reports:
In what appeared to be a coordinated exchange, President Obama called on the Huffington Post's Nico Pitney near the start of his press conference and requested a question directly about Iran. “Nico, I know you and all across the Internet, we've been seeing a lot of reports coming out of Iran,” Obama said, addressing Pitney. “I know there may actually be questions from people in Iran who are communicating through the Internet. Do you have a question?”
It has since been confirmed by deputy press secretary Bill Burton that the White House did in fact contact Pitney in advance and plan for him to ask about Iran. Pitney asked:
“Under which conditions would you accept the election of Ahmadinejad, and if you do accept it without any significant changes in the conditions there, isn't that a betrayal of the — of what the demonstrators there are working towards?”
It is unknown whether Obama knew exactly what the question was going to be, but if he wanted to address the issue of accepting Ahmadinejad’s legitimacy, coordinating with the Huffington Post would be an easy way to do it. Acts like this call into question the Post’s credibility at a time when the Post is trying to increase its influence. It made an impact in last year’s election—the Post's reporting included exposing Obama’s “bitter gun owners” comment—and it now have a regular spot at White House press conferences, but if the Post wants to be taken seriously, coordinating with the Obama White House isn’t helping. The Post has come under question, too, for having their investigative reporting program unready and publishing unskeptically a doctored video of John Gibson making derogatory comments about Eric Holder. Oh, yeah, and plagiarism isn’t helping the it's cause either.In 2005, the Bush administration was under fire for granting press credentials to James Gucker (aka Jeff Gannon), who wrote for Talon News, a conservative website, and lobbed softball questions during press conferences. Democrats were so riled up by Gannon that they demanded an investigation:
Democrats in Congress are trying to keep an embarrassing GOP scandal alive by asking that the official probe of White House propaganda be widened to include how an alleged gay hooker with an alias got into the press room every day. ...
Slaughter and Conyers also wrote to the special prosecutor probing who identified CIA agent Valerie Plame to the press, urging him to subpoena Guckert's diary.(New York Post, Feb. 24, 2005)
Since Obama is the first president in office in the modern media era, he has the priviledge of having a reporters from an unabashedly liberal website covering his press conferences, but one would think they would draw the line at coordinating questions. Meanwhile, Obama was dismissive of one of Jake Tapper's tough questions on healthcare.