ABC’s Karl Challenges Jay Carney Over Press Access to Obama: ‘So Jay Carney Would Fight With Jay Carney?’

For the past several months, ABC’s Jonathan Karl has been engaged in an ongoing battle with White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. The Chief White House Correspondent for ABC News has been one of the few reporters from the “big three” networks who has been consistent in questioning the Obama White House.

Filling in for George Stephanopoulos as moderator of This Week on January 26, Karl continued his tradition of pushing Jay Carney for answers during an exclusive interview with the press secretary. During the interview Karl called out Carney for the lack of access the Obama Administration gives the media, and asked the former Time Magazine reporter turned Obama propagandist whether “Jay Carney would fight with Jay Carney?

Karl began his interview with Carney by pointing out “some alarming numbers for the president… A make or break moment for a White House struggling. Just look at this stunner from the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, only 37% of the public think the president has the ability to make the right decisions for the country.” Karl didn’t let up in his questioning of the press secretary, as he asked Carney “how can the president lead when barely a third trust his ability to make the right decisions?” While Karl mostly hit Carney hard with tough questions, he did have a moment of weakness during the interview.

Karl listed numerous failed liberal priorities that Obama failed to get through Congress including gun control, raising the minimum wage and immigration reform and briefly seemed to sympathize with Carney when he asked “Isn't this year only going to be harder?”  The ABC reporter’s compassion didn’t last long as he immediately turned his attention on ObamaCare:

His signature achievement, health care reform, that's shaping up to be the biggest headache for Democrats in 2014. Our poll shows 59% disapprove of how ObamaCare has been implemented. And conservative groups are blasting Democratic candidates over ObamaCare. Will it have been worth it if you lose the Senate? I mean you already lost the House because of the law. Will it have been worth it politically?

Despite the barrage of questions Karl aimed at Carney, the ABC reporter didn’t let up, and even called out Carney for the White House’s continual tactic of blaming former President Bush for Obama’s shortcomings:

The president's had five years Jay. Five years. The economic crisis is in the rearview mirror, the Bush years are in the rearview mirror. Doesn't the president bear some responsibility -- his policies for the fact that the poverty rate in America has gone up? The gap between the rich and the poor is only greater.

Finally, Karl challenged the former Time reporter over President Obama’s history of leading a very secretive administration and closed off White House:

Then there’s the criticism leveled by the Executive Editor of The New York Times who is called the Obama White House the most secretive White House I have ever been involved in covering… So would Jay Carney, reporter, correspondent, Bureau Chief for Time Magazine be satisfied with the level of openness and transparency of this White House?

Karl’s willingness to challenge the Obama Administration should be a lesson for other reporters who continue to make excuses for this White House rather than challenge them. Karl has had moments where he has shown his liberal bias such as when he asked Senator Ted Cruz “How much do your colleagues just despise you?” and when he hammered Karl Rove over President Bush’s legacy. Despite his obvious missteps, Karl has been one of the few reporters unafraid to criticize this White House and the other networks should step up their game and be actual journalists rather than White House stenographers. 

 

See relevant transcript below.


ABC

This Week with George Stephanopoulos

January 26, 2014

10:07 a.m. Eastern

JONATHAN KARL: Now the State of the Union address. President Obama's chance to sell you on his agenda for the rest of the second term. So what will he reveal on Tuesday and how does he plan to get out of his plump? The roundtable is ready to break it down shortly. But we want to start with our new poll this morning, which has some alarming numbers for the president. We took it straight to a top Obama adviser who shapes the White House message every day, White House Press Secretary, Jay Carney. The State of the Union is perhaps President Obama's biggest and best chance to get the mojo back.

BARACK OBAMA: There is much progress to report.

KARL: A make or break moment for a White House struggling. Just look at this stunner from the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll, only 37% of the public think the president has the ability to make the right decisions for the country. How can the president lead when barely a third trust his ability to make the right decisions?

JAY CARNEY: Jon, I think what we saw last year in 2013 was a Washington that did not deliver for the American people. And the president sees this as a year of action. To work with Congress where he can and to bypass Congress where necessary. To lift folks who want to come up into the middle class.

KARL: So if you look at last year's State of the Union address, the president made some specific promises, raise the minimum wage

OBAMA: Raise the federal minimum to $9 an hour.

KARL: Immigration reform.

OBAMA: The time has come to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

KARL: Background checks for gun purchases

OBAMA: Background checks that will make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun.

KARL: None of that happened. Isn't this year only going to be harder?

CARNEY: Those were calls for action that involved Congress. The president's very disappointed that the Senate failed to heed the will of the vast majority of the American people when it came to expanding background checks. On immigration reform, we're actually optimistic that 2014 will be the year that Congress delivers to the president's desk a bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that meets the principles he laid out and that he can sign into law.

CARNEY: But it's what the president has already signed into law

OBAMA: We are done.

KARL: His signature achievement, health care reform, that's shaping up to be the biggest headache for Democrats in 2014. Our poll shows 59% disapprove of how ObamaCare has been implemented. And conservative groups are blasting Democratic candidates over ObamaCare. Will it have been worth it if you lose the Senate? I mean you already lost the House because of the law. Will it have been worth it politically?

CARNEY: Expanding access to quality and affordable health insurance to millions of Americans, reducing the growth in health care costs which is happening at a rate --

KARL: Would it have been worth it if you lose the Senate? That’s a simple--

CARNEY: This is not about politics. So the answer is it is absolutely worth it no matter what happens politically.

KARL: Even if you lose the Senate?

CARNEY: And I just disagree that Republicans are going to have a winning issue on this if they decide to run on it. Because they have to explain what repeal means.

KARL: In the State of the Union Tuesday, a key focus for the president, income inequality. Many Republicans say the president is to blame for rising poverty. Senator Tim Scott told my colleague Jeff Zeleny

TIM SCOTT: 7 million more Americans are living in poverty today that were not in poverty when Bush was leaving office.

CARNEY: I assume Senator Scott didn't note is that a lot of people were thrown into poverty by the worst recession since the great depression, which was in full bloom when President Obama was sworn into office.

KARL: But the president's had five years Jay. Five years. The economic crisis is in the rearview mirror, the Bush years are in the rearview mirror. Doesn't the president bear some responsibility -- his policies for the fact that the poverty rate in America has gone up? The gap between the rich and the poor is only greater.

CARNEY: What I can tell you Jon is that the problem and the challenge that the president has identified has been one in the making for over 30 years.

KARL: Then there’s the criticism leveled by the executive editor of the New York Times who is called the Obama White House the most secretive white house I have ever been involved in covering. You covered White Houses as a reporter for Time Magazine. So would Jay Carney, reporter, correspondent, Bureau Chief for Time Magazine be satisfied with the level of openness and transparency of this White House?

CARNEY: Well Jay Carney reporter would never be satisfied with the amount of information that any white house or any congressional --

KARL: So Jay Carney would fight with Jay Carney?

CARNEY: What I would tell you is that, you and all of your colleagues, my former colleagues in the press absolutely have to be beating on us and others around Washington to get as much information as you can. I strongly disagree with the statement. I know from experience that it's wrong. And we provide an extraordinary amount of information and access to reporters and we work every day to provide more.

Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer
Jeffrey Meyer is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center.