By Tim Graham
July 9, 2009
John Cook of the gossip website Gawker discovered that the White House press elite partied down with President Obama on ahem, Independence Day:
Reporters from roughly 30 television networks, newspapers, magazines, and web sites celebrated the Fourth of July with Barack Obama at the White House last weekend. Why didn’t you know that? Because they were sworn to secrecy.
We reported yesterday that Politico’s Mike Allen was spotted milling about as a guest at the White House’s “backyard bash” by the pool reporter, who was allowed into the event for 40 minutes and kept in a pen before being ushered out. When Allen quoted from the pool report in his Playbook column the next day, he deleted a reference to his own name and didn’t bother to tell his readers that he was actually at the party.
Well, he wasn’t alone. Gawker has learned that the White House gave tickets to virtually every major news organization that covers the president—the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Time, ABC News, NBC News, CNN, CBS News, and so on, about 30 in all. The reporters were invited to attend on the following condition:
“You are being invited to attend this event as a guest. Blogging, Twittering or otherwise reporting on this event is not permitted. If you feel that you cannot agree to abide by these ground rules, please don’t claim a ticket.”
That’s right: Much of the White House press corps spent the Fourth schmoozing with White House staffers, catching performances by the Foo Fighters and Jimmy Fallon, and watching the fireworks from the most exclusive vantage point in the D.C. metro area, all off the record—not to mention off-the-Facebook and off-the-Twitter.
These are the same people who just a week ago were whining in the press briefing about Obama’s malicious and dastardly attempts to “control the press.” (Well, not the self-same people—we’re not sure if Chip Reid and Helen Thomas, the primary antagonists in that exchange, were in attendance.)
Even if you weren’t a fan of Obama (or a fan of picnics, or the Foo Fighters), an ambitious reporter might take the tickets just to get some off-the-record schmoozing in with people they’d like to line up as sources. It would be nice to know which ones who daily pledge to uphold the “people’s right to know” attended and accepted the pledges of secrecy.
—Tim Graham is Director of Media Analysis at the Media Research Center.
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