Who Cares About Obama's Lavish Vacations?

If you thought perhaps the networks would focus in on how President Obama avoided blizzards by staying on vacation in Hawaii, or that anyone would ask how much his vacation might cost the taxpayer, think again. No one's interested in questioning Obama -- as London's Daily Mail did: "The 7,000-square foot home where the president is vacationing has five bedrooms, a media room and a secluded lagoon-style pool with tropical waterfalls and a spa." On her radio show Monday morning, Laura Ingraham played some audio of how CNN's Ed Henry kept it very light and food-focused on last Monday's Newsroom:

DEBORAH FEYERICK, anchor: Next, "The Stakeout." We're going to check in with Senior White House Correspondent Ed Henry. That is, if he's not busy, let's say, surfing...Well, the weather has been terrible in Washington, D.C., but that's no problem for our senior White house correspondent, Ed Henry. Why? Well, listen to the music. He's hanging out with the president in Hawaii. It is a tough job. We know you're running out of sunscreen. Ed, I hope at least they're feeding you.

ED HENRY: Yes. I'm also running out of new Hawaiian shirts. So I'm going to have to start recycling them. But I don't want you to think I have it that easy because you might not be able to tell, but there is a light rain falling behind me. And I can sympathize with my colleagues like you back east, because it plunged overnight here to about 65 degrees. So it's really dipped a lot. It's not really that warm right now. I mean, it's OK.

But, yes, it's fun on the White House beat. You get to travel all around the world with the president to exotic locales, not just internationally, but here in Hawaii, and you get to sample the food. And one thing you learn on this beat pretty early is the president likes to eat, and so do the reporters that follow him around.

HENRY (voice-over): This president is an adventurous diner, despite the first lady's healthy eating initiative.

BARACK OBAMA: And then you put French fries on top of it. So we can't tell the first lady. That is a big-looking piece of cake.

HENRY: But in fairness, the president usually can't say no, especially on the campaign trail, unless he wants to offend the locals. Reporters have a choice. We could say no, but often say yes, whether it's a gourmet restaurant here in Honolulu like this, or a dive in Dubuque. Just ask veteran correspondent Bill Plante of "CBS News," so good at picking wine, we call him our unofficial sommelier.

BILL PLANTE, CBS NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Eating is important because you spend your whole day working and you need some kind of opportunity to relax. How do you relax? You relax over good food and good wine.

HENRY: So after a series of long days, working -- yes, that's it -- working on the beach --

ALI VELSHI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You are working, just to be clear, right?

TONY HARRIS, CNN NEWS ANCHOR: He is White House correspondent, not a fashion reporter. Poor Ed Henry, our "Random Moment of the Day."

HENRY: It was time to take Bill Plante's advice and get a nice Christmas meal in Honolulu.

PLANTE: There are a couple that are particularly nice where you can sit in the evening breeze, open to the sky and the sea, and sip a fine glass of wine and have wonderful food. Have Ed give me a call.

HENRY: The person to call in Honolulu is Alan Wong, celebrity chef, who has hosted the president and first lady here many times, but is still in awe of the experience.

ALAN WONG, CELEBRITY CHEF: In Hawaii, it's what we call chicken skin moments. You know?

HENRY (on camera): What does that mean?

WONG: Goosebumps.

HENRY: And you get that?

WONG: Oh, yes, every time.

HENRY (voice-over): Contrary to some of the junk food the president and the press enjoy on the road, this restaurant is known for local vegetables and fresh seafood, like the tilapia the first lady prefers. That's why the first couple keeps coming back, and so do we.

WONG: You're in Hawaii, so you should be able to taste Hawaii. A little bit of East, a little bit of West. It is kind of natural.

HENRY: Now, Alan Wong confided to me that the president actually really loves the short ribs when he goes to Alan Wong's restaurant. Sometimes he even tries to get a second helping.

Interesting though, because you would never know it, the guy is in such great shape. And that is part of the problem with having a very skinny president. You don't have to worry about this, Deb, but the rest of us were reminded we've got to get cracking on those New Year's resolutions.

FEYERICK: That's right. And your favorite food before we ask you a serious question is what?

HENRY: Favorite food on the road? Oh, gosh.

You know, out here it's seafood because it's unbelievable. They've got pink snapper, they've got tilapia. Everything is fresh -- lobster. So I guess I'm adding to -- it's going to be harder for me say that this is tough duty when I'm laying out the menu.

FEYERICK: That's exactly right. You see food, you eat it.

HENRY: Exactly.

Then there was a tiny bit of business -- dismissing rumors that Bill Richardson might replace Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. Then Feyerick concluded "Ed Henry, thank you so much. Really, we're all sitting here in complete envy."

UPDATE: Ed Henry also discussed this on Reliable Sources on Sunday:

KURTZ: CNN's Ed Henry just back from his hardship duty covering President Obama in Hawaii, where he took some hula lessons.

But you also ran into a little bit of controversy with the "Honolulu Star-Advertiser" -- let me read from the editorial, which is titled, "Reporting Live in My Hawaiian Shirt." "The news reports themselves, but for the tourism industry, and any live shot with palm trees in the background is all good."  Defend yourself.

ED HENRY, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, yes. We put something on CNN.com/1600report, our blog, and, look, it was all in fun.
I mean, the "Star-Advertiser" decided to go after me and some of the other reporters on the trip, saying we were doing fluff. The bottom line is, look, number one, for me, the hula lesson was silly, but it's kind of like when Nixon went to the beach and he used to wear wingtips and a suit, and it looked ridiculous. You're in Hawaii, have a little bit of fun.  If the president --

KURTZ: You have a lot of these shirts, by the way.

HENRY: I have a whole new wardrobe because of President Obama. I appreciate it very much. No, but seriously, last Christmas, unfortunately, there was that terror attack.

KURTZ: Right. You had to work.

HENRY: And we worked around the clock. And we were not wearing Hawaiian shirts. We were wearing serious --

KURTZ: All right. This time, not so much.

HENRY: This time, the president wasn't making news. Thankfully, there was no terror incident. And so, have a little fun with it. I mean, look, if the president had come out and had a news conference, or did something super serious, of course we would have treated it --

KURTZ: Not just that. I mean, you barely saw him. Even the photo-ops were very limited.

HENRY: Right.

KURTZ: So isn't there a thing where you come out on camera -- and it's one thing for a newspaper article to say, well, Obama's laying low. You've got to have some semblance of news. You can't just say, hey, we're all on vacation here.

HENRY: Right.

KURTZ: So is there a little bit of kind of pretend that there's something going on?

HENRY: Well, I don't think we were pretending, but I think you're struggling to find something to talk about, and that's why sometimes it gets into a silly hula lesson or something like that. But, you know, the president is playing golf, but there's hardly pictures of it. The president's family plays tennis, they go out on the beach. And there's no picture, so they --

KURTZ: So you were angry.

HENRY: We weren't angry.

KURTZ: The president was not playing ball with you.

HENRY: He was playing golf, he wasn't giving you any tidbits. We all had to talk about what he had to say about Michael Vick.

HENRY: Right. But in all seriousness, I think the bottom line for me is the president is entitled to a vacation. So it is not a matter of him playing ball with us. He can do what he wants on his vacation.

KURTZ: And yet, you have to be there because --

HENRY: But we need to be there. We spend a lot of money doing that. And a lot of people sort of raise questions about that around the country, and fair question, why do you follow him on vacation?

KURTZ: And the answer is?

HENRY: God forbid there's a terror incident like last Christmas. He came out three or four times to make statements. We need to be there. Now, I don't think we shouldn't be traipsing through his back yard, doing paparazzi photos, try to get him without his shirt. Some of the paparazzi -- we try not to do that. He's entitled to his space, he's entitled to his family time, but we have got to be there if, God forbid, there's a big story.

KURTZ: And you never know. He could play basketball again and need more stitches in his lip.

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