Obama's Been Skipping the White House Press Corps for Network and Social Media Softballs

In noting the latest White House "hangout" with questions from YouTube users, Amie Parnes of The Hill noted that President Obama has failed to hold a press conference since early October -- three months without engaging with White House reporters who might feel professional pressure to ask unexpected hardball questions. Instead, Obama submits himself to softball sessions with ABC's Diane Sawyer or Barbara Walters.

She reported Towson University professor Martha Joynt Kumar’s research indicates Obama has held more solo White House news conferences (17) than George W. Bush in his first three years (11). "On the other hand, Obama has held far fewer news conferences than former Presidents Clinton and George H.W. Bush, who held 31 and 56 news conferences, respectively." He prefers the more controlled individual interviews -- often loaded with softballs like which super power he'd like to have.

Obama is out-performing both Bush and Clinton when it comes to interviews -- 408 in his first three years, according to Kumar, compared to Bush’s 136 and Clinton’s 166.

Obama has been less likely to answer impromptu questions at photo-ops and other spur-of-the-moment sessions with reporters. Obama has only held 94 of these short Q&As, while George W. Bush and Clinton respectively held 307 and 493 in their first three years.

“I’m reminded of Eisenhower’s press secretary who once wrote, ‘To hell with slanted reporters, we’ll go directly to the people,’ ” Kumar said. But these reporters aren't exactly a phalanx of right-wing Obama haters. They represent establishment news agencies that warmly chronicled his 2008 campaign.
 

Tim Graham
Tim Graham
Tim Graham is Executive Editor of NewsBusters and is the Media Research Center’s Director of Media Analysis