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June 25th, 2009
07:32 AM ET

President playing favorites?

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference in the James S. Brady Briefing Room at the White House June 23, 2009 in Washington, DC."]

It is unusual for a town hall meeting to be held in the White House, but President Obama knows how to use the media. But that doesn’t mean the media is allowing itself to be used, although as Republican Congressman Lamar Smith puts it, “Right now I think they (voters) are not getting the facts and therefore it’s hard to make good decisions, and therefore our democracy is threatened.”

But in the world of broadcast journalism, last night ABC New’s “Questions for the President: Prescription for America” was a “coup” and a political football. The Republican National Committee went on the offense and ran an ad saying, "Today a national network turns its airwaves over to President pitch for government run healthcare.

A not-so-veiled attempt, some say, to paint not only President Obama's healthcare plan as "socialist" but make the media a willing partner. Independent analyst and Daily Beast columnist, John Avlon says, “I think what you have is the newest incarnation of the oldest story that so many of us are sick of, which is partisan talking points clouding all common sense.”

Fair criticism or not, some say the President is fueling the fire by playing favorites. Before holding a press conference Tuesday, the White House gave Nico Pitney from The Huffington Post a heads-up the President was going to "call on him."

President Obama: “Nico, I know that you, and all across the Internet, we've been seeing a lot of reports coming directly out of Iran. Do you have a question?"

In short – that's unusual. And it didn't sit well with some journalists.

Dana Milbank, who writes the sketch column for the Washington Post says, “Either a news conference with the President is an unscripted event or it isn’t. The question is when people tune into see the President in a news conference do they have any confidence that they’re in fact watching a news conference or is this some sort of a pre-produced television program?”

Nico Pitney, the national editor for the Huffington Post claims the question wasn’t scripted. Pitney IS well known for blogging tirelessly with protestors inside Iran. He says the White House knows that and called to inform him the President would call on him. Critics, he adds, are just miffed because the scripting of the press conference didn’t go according to tradition.

“President Obama, for whatever reason chose to do a different order, but everyone recognizes that the White House gets to decide how these press conferences go,” Pitney says.

Maybe. But, conservatives are already citing "the Pitney thing" as another example of the "Obama-controlled media." Although critics say it's important to remember this: Every president has favorites. President Bush certainly did. In 2008, Bret Baier the former chief White House correspondent for FOX News Channel hosted a one hour special on President Bush including exclusive behind the scenes interviews with the president aboard Air Force One, inside the Oval Office and at the Bush residence in Crawford, Texas.

One additional note: Robert Gibbs , the White House press secretary, told us the White House did not tell Nico Pitney what question to ask he came up with it on his own.

And ABC? Well, if you watched the Town Hall meeting last night we'll let you draw your own conclusions.

Filed under: Controversy • Health • Politics
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. R.E. Tramo

    re: Gun carrry permits – when are you liberals going to realize that the way to prevent crime is TO PUT CRIMINALS AWAY? Law abiding citizens should be permitted to carry arms across state lines since they don't commit crimes. Criminals will always find ways to acquire and carry arms irrespective of existing laws. The argument is as simple as this! John Roberts and Mike Bloomberg are flaming liberals who live in the liberal dream world that says everything can be perfect especially if there are laws to make it so. Conservatives live in the real world that says things can never be perfect. There will always be exceptions to every rule (law) and those exceptions in law are referred to as CRIMINALS. If there were no laws against robbery would you, the law abiding citizen, rob convenience stores? Of course not. Does the fact that laws against robbery that exist in all 50 states prevent robbery? Of course not. Criminals ignore laws. That is the definition of a criminal!

    July 22, 2009 at 7:49 am |
  2. mary brockenshire

    What beautiful words Warren Holloway!

    June 26, 2009 at 9:04 am |
  3. warren holloway

    Michael was thie King of Pop and touched so many lives. Unfortunately, in the last few years, he was the King of jokes and ridicule. He was the only person I belived lived 100yrs in his 50 year life span. He conquered his purpose x3 and then some. Because of the lack of compassion and the need to knock others down to build ourselves up, Michael experienced the true meaning of betrayal. He never seemed to be extrememly happy with anything in his life other than his performing and his children which also cuased him nuch ridicule. No death in my eyes is premature. We go when we are meant to go. When our purpose in this carnal life has been fulfilled only then can we be callled to fulfill our purpose in the after life. He is much more at peace and happier now than we culd even imagine and I am thankful that he was able to influence my generation. May his soul rest in peace. I can only imagine what the immortals are doing on the other side. Maybe asking for autographs or trying to get close to him as they would have on this side, one thing for certain and two things for sure, they aren't judging him and mocking him and may God bless his soul! Thank you Michael for sharing your gifts, your love and most of all your music!

    June 26, 2009 at 8:50 am |
  4. Justin Shelley

    everyone should stop and think for a minute about the geniusness of michael.
    besides his personal life and his problems . there is not many people in this world that have his potentials. aspire to have that kind of creativity. If everybody had a piece of Michaels perfectionism america would be a bit more perfect!

    June 26, 2009 at 8:43 am |
  5. Nkiru

    A true superstar who is irreplaceable. People need to stop judging him. The world mourns you Michael, you are the best and may your soul rest in the Lord. Nobody is perfect and people fail to realize that. Your death is like a personal loss to me and all your fans and well-wishers worldwide. Thanks for your immense contribution to humanity.

    June 26, 2009 at 7:47 am |
  6. Bernice

    Well Arleen, I surely do hope that you are not a betting woman, for this is one bet that you would lose for sure! I love my Lou Dobbs!! I am a CNN viewer, and am able to get great journalism right here! I do also watch ABC, CBS, and of course, NBC! As I have said, I like to research ALL sides to one story. Not just the cherry coated versions! Better luck on your next poker hand! We do need all reporters to be able to ask questions of our president! This covers all areas and one reporter may have thoughts that another may not have even thought to cover! When it comes to trillions of American tax dollars, the crumbeling of our financial institutions, and the power of the American Constitution however, I want the whole story. I do not want to hear just what one person wants me to hear! I am a taxpayer. I want to know EVERYTHING! These are OUR and OUR CHILDRENS taxdollars and future, I demand truth. I deserve it. Don't you think that you do, too??

    June 25, 2009 at 8:13 pm |
  7. Arleen

    to Bernice....I bet you listen to Fox more than any other Tv Station.

    June 25, 2009 at 3:26 pm |
  8. Karen Alexander

    How else are we supposed to be able to come to our own conclusions about Healthcare if we don't know the answers? How else do we get the answers if we don't hear what the president says? I'm glad someone is willing to put him on and let him answer questions we might not otherwise hear the answers to.........duh....

    June 25, 2009 at 9:52 am |
  9. Bernice

    Eva, CNN, Fox, and the republican parrty are not screaming because he talks to the American people! Everyone likethat part about the president! What they seem to be upset however, is the same thing that alot of Americans are upset about! He is NOT talking to the people! He is shutting out the news and NOT allowing the news to ask questions! Why? They just may catch him in more irresponsible acts done by this administration? I DO NOT want cherry coated news reports! I want the thruth that CNN and FOX NEWS delivers! Besides, he is not really talking! He is scripted! I want someone there for me who is willing to ask the TOUGH questions and look out for the AMERICAN PEOPLE! GO CNN! Eva, go to ABC. There you will find the "cherry coated" news that you are looking for!! I will however pass. I would rather have a full picture of reality. In the long run, you may be wise to do the same.

    June 25, 2009 at 9:11 am |
  10. Bernice

    What is good for the goose is good for the gander? What a scarry thought you have going for you this early in the morning! With an attitude like that, our country is in serious peril! We should have OPEN PRESS! I want to hear ALL points of view and this allows people with different opinions to also be asking the right questions for the American people! THEN....I will be able to keep my right to watch ANY tv programming that I wish for,,,Not what HE WANTS US TO HEAR! Besides, everyone seems to want to look back at the republicans actions in the past administration instead of looking into the future. What does that help?? Heck! Are you people sleeping this morning? This administration has spent more mone irresponsibly than ANY or even ALL presidents in the past...all rolled into one burrito! I would like to hear what CNN and Fox has to say! Maybe I am not as trusting and as gullable as most! I like to be able to educate myself on all sides to the issue, not just his side. We may all be awaiting a doctor a very long line ... waiting ...and, waiting.. Oh boy! VA hospitals! Government healthcare?? Ask any vet if it works for them first! Heck, even ask the military and thier families! You may want to change your minds after looking at ALL facts of how the govt already takes care of the people it now has in a caring govt run program. Let us hear from ALL of the TV stations! Let us have the RIGHT to!! ...and, Lisa...Lou Dobbs did NOT press for Obama to get into the whitehouse at all! He took MOST of his time alerting the public that he felf we were being misled! The financial problem was not at all as serious as it was reported at all! We were "flat out" robbed! CNN LET US KNOW THE THRUTH! So does FOX! I want to be able to hear ALL OF THE NEWS from these guys! They tell the thruth no matter who it may hurt! It's not all about ratings! Its about honesty and integrity. (and, my OUR RIGHTS to hear all sides of it)!!!!!!!

    June 25, 2009 at 8:58 am |
  11. Eva Sullivan

    Oh, we now have a president who talks to the american people and now cnn and the republicans are screaming about it. Hmmmmmmm like we should have like the past administration which hid things from us and never let the american people know anything. As for health care if you worked all your life and paid taxes and now you are older and in pain and cannot afford to go to Dr. because of the cost you would be hoping and praying that something would happen so that maybe just maybe something would happen that would help you.

    June 25, 2009 at 8:47 am |
  12. Carl Clark

    The sense of entitlement is rearing its head in the question you pose. I would prefer a society that focused on the precept of evolving into an egalitarian society. Things take forever to move forward and any distraction that can be avoided, should be. I just wish that thoughts on the subject that affects us all should be the point of discussion and not the perceived protocol of the messenger and the delivery system of the message. As to the point of your question, the Republican party is wholly devoted to a survival of the fittest "Skinner" mentality, so I would expect nothing less from them and actually just tune them out whenever they deviate from any conversation that actually might promote a better life for all Americans.

    June 25, 2009 at 8:06 am |
  13. Lisa

    So much for loyalty, cnn, free pressed him to the whitehouse and now the blogger's get the scoop, perhap's you guy's will think twice before electing the people's president.
    I would think your viewer's would come first,
    and i would also like to voice my opion on iran, if them people are willing to stand up and die for freedom, then we the people need to force the issue WE will support them to the end with all means, i'm 100percent sure with one word, israel would gladly help them out, I am very dissapointed with the lull of humanity america is showing, we have korea, floating nukes and our marines have not seized that boat, we are very seriously looking like a nation that is only concerned about us. the democrat's are really showing there true color's let me mind you they have LOST my vote permantly.

    June 25, 2009 at 7:58 am |
  14. Charles

    Is it honest for a network or radio show to never report anything
    positive about the President and things the white house is doing?
    So why go on a network that is not fair and balanced?

    June 25, 2009 at 7:56 am |
  15. Carrie Cowherd

    Last year during the campaign, Dana Milbank quoted part of a sentence by candidate Obama and from his Olympian perch pronounced Obama "hubristic."

    Other than someone else who wants to trash Obama at any opportunity (and certainly there are very many of you), who can possibly care what Milbank says about anything?

    Carrie Cowherd

    June 25, 2009 at 7:52 am |
  16. Arleen

    I don't see anything wrong with the President having the townhall meeting at the White House with ABC. At least the questions are not scripted. With ABC we get an honest report, not like the hand picked , for warned question and answers we received during the past eight years. The Republican party needs to look back at their own actions during the Bush administration and stop trying to use everything this President does as a political tool against him.
    There is an old saying that applies here, "What is good for the goose is good for the gander."

    June 25, 2009 at 7:50 am |
  17. Marti Lofton-Richmond Hill, GA

    Listen to the people. I am the people.... I pay $1300. a month for coverage for me and my husband. Plus I had to pay $230. for a CT of my chest. I asked the receptionist "what if I don't have that much money today?" She said "we will be glad to reschedule." With my current illness, I am paying monthly dues, specialist fees, Co-pays, and now I get a bill from the lab that analyzes my blood work. WE NEED TO FIX THIS NOW..... why aren't the doctors screaming? The lab charged $236.00 for my test ... BCBS only paid them $32.08.... The lab wrote off 195.90 and left me with a balance of $8.02. I just have to add this to the monthly bills of doctor co-pays and my medication. Co-pays for my medication is appox. $365.00 a month. I need help. HEALTH CARE REFORM NOW. We can find enough savings to pay for it. Listen to the people.. I am the people. My only alternative is to go on total disability and let the government take care of this. I don't want to do this. I want to work as long as possible, which should be at least 20 more years as a high school teacher.

    June 25, 2009 at 7:50 am |
  18. David

    For this president...there is nothing about balanced discussion and compromise. He has to have it his way...period. This is a sad day in the historoy of this great country when for whatever reason, the press decides to play favorites and support a bully who is about to bankrupt us and our children. A sad day. What happened to independent journalism?

    June 25, 2009 at 7:49 am |
  19. jim jackson

    The charge that Obama is "using the media" to promote his health care plan may or may not be true. What president has not attempted such a "coup?" The fact remains that we remain a free society where we can watch/not watch the President, tune in/tune out – CNN or FOX, listen/not listen to liberal/conservative radio talk or blog/not blog. Let's be smart enough to test all the waters & make up our own minds!

    June 25, 2009 at 7:47 am |
  20. msmith1122

    scarlett johansson is my favorite. She's top of the line im me right now. If nothing seems to change in a few well then let's just say her photos keep me warm. I try to collect them all and put it on auto flip on my computer and really get down to buisness. She's the best ever I love her. If I could meet her it wouldn't even be worth it cuz im not rich enough.

    June 25, 2009 at 7:47 am |