Jake Tapper Unloads on Obama: You’re in No Position to Lecture

An irritated Jake Tapper on Tuesday unloaded on Barack Obama, attacking the President for “lecturing” journalists about how to do their job. Highlighting a speech from Monday, in which the Democrat called for reporters to “dig” and “demand more,” Tapper quipped, “His message was a good one. But was President Obama the right messenger?” 

The CNN host rebuffed, “Many believe that Obama's call for us to probe and dig deeper and find out more has been made far more difficult by his administration than any in decades, a far cry from assurances he offered when he first took office.” 

Specifically, Tapper objected, “The Obama administration has used the Espionage Act to go after more leakers and whistle-blowers than all previous presidential administrations combined, despite official assurances otherwise.” 

Turning a famous Washington Post reporter back on Obama, he concluded: 

JAKE TAPPER: President Obama's advice for journalists Monday night was spot on, but Mr. President, with all due respect, when one of the Washington Post editors involved in the coverage of Watergate says that your administration's attempt to fight leaks and control the media is, quote, "the most aggressive I've seen since the Nixon administration," well, maybe, just maybe, your lecturing would be better delivered to your own administration. 

The Lead host's comments stand in contrast to ABC, CBS and NBC. On Tuesday, all three networks touted Obama’s “lengthy indictment” of the “ugly” primaries. The reporters on the morning shows uncritically hyped the President’s lecture with none of the questioning Tapper provided.

Of course, another point is that Obama calling for reporters to probe and “demand more” is rather ironic, given how little certain journalists have done that with him. (Jake Tapper being one of the exceptions.) 

A transcript of the commentary is below: 

The Lead
3/29/16
4:56

JAKE TAPPER: President Obama, last night, offered a strong media critique, telling us to hold presidential candidates accountable for what they say, question their policies, call out debatable claims. President Obama made many salient points. His message was a good one. But was President Obama the right messenger? The media critic-in-chief had some tough love for journalism Monday night. 

BARACK OBAMA: But while fairness is the hallmark of good journalism, false equivalency all too often these days can be a fatal flaw. 

TAPPER: Imploring us to do a better job at covering campaign 2016. 

OBAMA: A job well done is about more than just handing someone a microphone. It's to probe and to question and dig deeper and  to demand more. 

TAPPER: The President’s criticisms were well said and quite apt. But for many journalists, the messenger was a curious one. Many believe that Obama's call for us to probe and dig deeper and find out more has been made far more difficult by his administration than any in decades, a far cry from assurances he offered as he first took office. 

OBAMA: Transparency and rule of law will be the touchstones of the presidency. 

TAPPER: Transparency? Quote, “Obama hasn't delivered,” ProPublica reporter Justin Elliott wrote in The Washington Post just a few days ago, calling the massive backlog of those seeking and failing to receive information from the government under the Freedom of Information Act, quote, “a disaster under Obama's watch” with Obama officials aggressively lobbying against reforms proposed in Congress. An Associated Press study last year concluded that, quote, the Obama administration set a record again for censoring government files or outright denying access to them under the Freedom of Information Act. The Committee to Protect Journalists told CNN today, “The president has fallen short of his promise,” quote, “seizing journalists' phone records and e-mails, the aggressive prosecutions of whistle-blowers who leak classified information to the press, and the massive surveillance of communications have sent an unequivocal chilling message to journalists and their sources.” The Obama administration has used the Espionage Act to go after more leakers and whistle-blowers than all previous presidential administrations combined, despite official assurances otherwise. 

JAY CARNEY: When classified information is leaked, that is a violation of the law. And it is a -- it is a serious matter. But if you're asking me whether the president believes journalists should be prosecuted for doing their jobs, the answer is no. 

TAPPER: President Obama’s advice for journalists Monday night was spot on, but Mr. President, with all due respect, when one of the Washington Post editors involved in the coverage of Watergate says that your administration's attempt to fight leaks and control the media is, quote, “the most aggressive I've seen since the Nixon administration," well, maybe, just maybe, your lecturing would be better delivered to your own administration. 

Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock
Scott Whitlock is the associate editor for the Media Research Center's NewsBusters.org site.