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How the White House Bullies the Press

by Keith Koffler on March 14, 2011, 9:55 am

President Obama’s conference on bullying Thursday was deeply ironic to some in the White House press corps. That’s because every reporter who regularly covers the place knows that President Obama’s staff has a policy – an actual, pre-conceived policy – of bullying.

It’s a tactic that amount to no less than suppression of speech. By the “openness” administration.

The White House bullies reporters to try to ensure favorable coverage. When White House officials, particularly members of the press office, see a story they don’t like, they often call and verbally abuse the reporter who wrote the piece.

In diatribes often peppered with obscenities, they complain of profound injustice, bias, lack of relevance – anything they can think of to get reporters to back off their story.

Robert Gibbs

It’s not just a series of uncontrolled outbursts. It is a planned, methodical, and highly artificial effort to either squash a story or get inside a reporter’s head so they think twice about doing a piece next time that negatively impacts Obama.

That this is an actual policy is evident from the consistency of the practice and its implementation by nearly every member of the White House press office staff. They are all nice, affable people who suddenly switch into an unmarked gear and begin running you over at full speed.

I have been told by one Obama flack that a story was “horseshit” and by another that “you’re really going to win a fucking Nobel Prize for that one.” A third, while he was working on the campaign in 2008, told me he “almost fell out of my chair” when he heard I was working on a certain piece and proceeded with a profanity-laced analysis of its weaknesses.

A fourth, who I’d thought was the good cop among the bunch, had a sudden change of personality in his office one day when he tore into a rather routine article of mine that barely grazed the president.

And I’d never even heard from former Press Secretary Robert Gibbs. Even President Obama has acknowledged Gibbs could give reporters a hard time.

All this while I was a member of the mainstream press with Roll Call, before I launched this blog.

The problem with this kind of intimidation is not that it hurt reporters’ feelings. The problem is that it is an assault on free speech. The Obamaites know perfectly well that most of these are legitimate, fair stories. But because the articles don’t make the president look great, the press office employs a tactic to try to keep reporters from writing the things they must.

Jay Carney

I have seen this done by press people from the Bush and Clinton administrations, which I both covered. But only on rare occasion, and generally with a legitimate grievance in hand. But never have I witnessed this type of bullying of the press in such a systematic, intense, and frequent manner.

Most White House reporters won’t talk or write about it, obviously fearing that sources and interview opportunities will suddenly dry up. One brave soul who got into it a bit was Josh Gerstein of POLITICO, who last year wrote a piece on the surprisingly bad relationship between the Obama press office and reporters.

There is some hope that newly minted White House Press Secretary Jay Carney will improve relations with the press. But while I never had to deal with any tirades out of him while he was Vice President Biden’s communications director, the rap on Carney is that he, a former reporter for Time, has in the past made every effort to ensure his Obamaland colleagues understand he’s with the program.

A recent piece by the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank questioned the pervasive humming around town that the Carney era will be marked by a new Detente with the press, noting he had once received an email from Carney titled “You are a hack.”

Mr. President, if you are serious about reducing bullying, you might first want to try to put in stop to it in your own house.

{ 17 trackbacks }

{ 57 comments }

srdem65 March 14, 2011 at 10:42 am

So, the MSM prints favorable crap about the O’s; “he’s so smart”, “she’s a fashion icon” because they’re afraid of being ‘shut out’ of, what? the spun out lies and misdirection spewing from the minds of political operatives.

This isn’t 1960 and WalterCronkite isn’t here any more. We catch our news from the internet, not the newspapers or evening news. We have access to other voices, other opinions and can make up our own minds as to the truth.
The MSM isn’t driving public opinion anymore.
If the spinmasters bullying had worked, the 2010 elections would not have been a disaster for the Dems.

Susan March 14, 2011 at 11:19 am

Thank you Keith for writing “out loud” what we already know, Obamaites are bullies who want to control every aspect of the message coming from this administration. Plouffe came on board to try to herd the cats, but it is too late. The jig is up.

srdem is right. We don’t depend on the evening news or AP to get the news any longer. The days of MSM controlling the message is over. We are in a new age of enlightenment, and we can thank the advent of the internet (Al Gore’s invention) for opening the door. Now we just have to watch what the internet czar is trying to do. Net neutrality is just a reincarnation of the fairness doctrine.

Star March 14, 2011 at 11:56 am

This makes this blog all the more welcome and remarkable and I am not sucking up. I am not the sucking up type, actually–and neither are you!

Granny Jan March 14, 2011 at 12:03 pm

There is some kind of cult around this President. That can be seen visually with the White House photos. I’m not surprised at their behavior. I’m just pleased that you told the truth.

kdizzydaze March 14, 2011 at 1:02 pm

There are three ponts that need to be known about this administration and this psident.

1. they are very arrogant, condesceding and very thin sined regarding anything about themor thir beliefs.
2. they actually believe they are100% right about everything and that their detractors and previous administrations are completely wrong
3. they are monday morning quarterbacks, all of them. They can prattle on (much of the time completely incoherently and inaccurately) regarding past polices or decisions – yet they have moved forward with nothing of any positve value since they came into power.

That is all

Susan March 14, 2011 at 1:19 pm

Jan, We live near a small college town. During the 2008 election season we noticed a cult-like behavior in many of the young people who would rally for Obama in the town square most every weekend. It was like they had a religious devotion to the man. Haven’t seen anything like it since the Moonies, who used to accost us at the airport.

Tom March 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm

GREAT POINT.

“Cult like behavior.”

Did anyone else notice this? I sure as hell did. The kids were into Obama like the youth were into Adolf Hitler – there was NO questioning who Obama was, what he believed or accomplished … it was all about Hope and Change.

bigyaz March 16, 2011 at 11:10 am

You know the discussion has devolved into crazyland when the Hitler references start coming out.

JWF March 14, 2011 at 12:33 pm

You’d be Worst Person in the World today if Keith Olbermann were still alive.

Keith Koffler March 14, 2011 at 12:48 pm

Damn. Been trying so long to win the Oscar, and then the Academy just went and folded when I had the chance.

Nice to hear from you JWF!

West March 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm

Wishful thinking, perhaps. Keefie is still alive and kicking. He’s just doing it in relative (meaning increased) obscurity, thank God.

Ed Wallis March 14, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Nice article. Nevertheless…the White House Press Corps has only itself to blame. “Obsequious” is no longer applicable. “Ostrich-head-in-the-sand” went out the window years ago. This arm of the Leftist propaganda machine is only now reaping what it has sown over the years. No tears from me.

flrumph March 14, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Name names and hand over the emails or shut up.

Keith Koffler March 14, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Reasonable request. But, no.

hudson duster March 14, 2011 at 1:13 pm

I suspect an obozo worshiper has been wounded by this column.

ertdfg March 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm

“I have been told by one Obama flack… and by another that…A third, while he was working on the campaign in 2008, told me…A fourth, who I’d thought was the good cop among the bunch, had a sudden change of personality in his office one day”

Told, told, told, in his office. So what’s this about e-mails? “Name names” might be valid; but where do you get any “e-mail” reference?

‘A recent piece by the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank … noting he had once received an email from Carney titled “You are a hack.”’

You want Keith to get you the e-mail from Dana now?

RWC March 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm

A digital recording is pretty cheap to make. Should have already been done.

Joe Y March 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm

Oh, come on. When has any reporter from any media outlet, outside of Fox, the WSJ, and on occasion, Jake Tapper at ABC, ever written anything remotely critical of Obama? You can’t be serious.

The article itself proves the point. Why in the world would any vaguely competent reporter care in the slightest if he were being bullied by the White House?

Because of sources? Give me a break. You mean a source that’s going to expect the reporter to slavishly publicize the best possible spin on the White House’s acitivies? Why bother?

If these reporters were really reporting, they’d be thrilled to get a call critiqueing their performance, because either 1) The reporter had made a mistake that could be corrected and thus improve the product; or 2) The article had been too accurate for the Administration’s comfort.

Face it: The only reason these “reporters” care about the White House’s criticism is because they think they already are doing the best they can by the Adminstration and can’t figure out how to be even more so without turning into a Saturday Night Live skit.

Banjo March 14, 2011 at 1:04 pm

Sycophants that they are, the MSM dictation-takers lick the boot that just kicked them and promise to do better next time.

hudson duster March 14, 2011 at 1:11 pm

Disturbing and also surprising. Why would obozo’s minions feel it’s necessary to be hard on the press when so many of them helped elect him and desperately want him to succeed?
I can only assume they know what an empty suit he is, and how quickly his limitations would be revealed if the group think ends and critical coverage begins. Not to mention the fact he’s a pathetic pussy who would collapse if he ever had to cope with the coverage that Bush received..

Swedish lady March 14, 2011 at 1:17 pm

Thank you very much for this inside information.As always, very interesting. When treated this way the reporters are hopefully vengeful and watching for the right moment— By the way, why don´t the reporters inform their editors ?

Keith Koffler March 14, 2011 at 1:45 pm

Thanks SL – their editors are well aware and are often called in to deal with the press office as well. In fact, it was used against we once as a threat – “we could talk to you editor about this” type of thing.

Llarry March 14, 2011 at 6:25 pm

The White House Press Corps doesn’t seem to mind being “bullied.” They always go easy on Obama in his press conferences, refusing to ask anything that might expose his corruption and incompetence. Nobody ever asks about Holder’s racist DOJ or Organizing for America meddling in Wisconsin’s budgetary process, for example.

Obama lied his way through his last presser, telling us ridiculous fairy tales about energy, but all those reporters let him get away with it. I think journalists are intimidated by his race, as absurd as that is.

Tom March 14, 2011 at 9:16 pm

Your correct.

Liberal MSM reporters are initimidated because he is black and they are white and “priviledged.” Although I have to admit there are a few that ask tough and engaging questions; the Obama Administration simply doesn’t answer.

Keith Koffler March 14, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Larry, I don’t know that I agree w everything you’ve said, but I do know that this is the softest group of questioners I’ve seen since I’ve been at the White House. And if Dick Cheney’s private political army had stormed into a state to interfere with their politics, we would have been inundated with stories about the second coming of the Brown Shirts.

Klawnet March 14, 2011 at 1:43 pm

As much as I agree the WH is depraved in its handling of the truth, I chortled at Dana Milbank getting a nastygram from a former Time hack.

ef March 14, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Well, the white house left some handy advice on how to handle bullies.

Remember, according to Obama, bullying proves the bully’s weakness and insecurity.

Miranda March 14, 2011 at 2:08 pm

You can’t be bullied unless you allow yourself to be bullied (unless of course you’re 8 yrs old).

I can’t bring myself to feel the least bit of sympathy for the sycophantic WH press corps & their JournoList/CabaList pals at Politico, WashCompost/Salon, the NY fish wrap & Nat’l Pravda Radio. What I feel is contempt – pure contempt.

This WH is doing exactly what it wants to do – play good cop, bad cop – w/ faux “reporters”. They punish their enemies (sound familiar?), and reward their friends. Jarrett, Gibbs (physically gone but surely still at the WH in spirit), Sunstein et al are not & have never been stupid, or naive, or “inexperienced”. They have a deliberate, Machiavellian strategy – co-opt the corrupt press, which surely has proven to be easier than they expected. Humiliate & scorn reporters who dare to question Obama – reward those who write fawningly of The One.

Reward – how? Oh, say an invite to Biden’s Beach Party Bingo last year … or the cozy little Saturday night going-away party for Axelrod attended by supposedly straight shooters like Jake Tapper & Major Garrett, and.that idiot Chuck Todd – and of course the object of their schoolgirl crush – the King himself (and many thanks to Keith for actually reporting on this event).

It’s a classic abuser/abused relationship – the more verbal abuse from the bully – the more the victim tries to please the bully. Hint – appeasement doesn’t work – it doesn’t work for a woman beaten by her husband – it didn’t work for France in WWII – and it doesn’t work for a milque-toast press, which long ago abandoned its morals and now is in the de facto employ of ObamaLand.

Star March 14, 2011 at 2:54 pm

You said idiot Chuck Todd. I laughed.

looking closely March 14, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Sticks and stones, journalistos.

Waaah. . .the bad bad men at the White House are calling you names? Boo hoo!

Guess what. . .the press holds the power here, not the White House.

The way to stop being bullied is to attack the bully. . .same as any playground. Run 2-3 stories on verbal attacks from the White House, and the behavior will stop.

But of course the press corps is too enthralled with the “light bringer” to do it.

Why is the Obama White House doing this? BECAUSE THEY KNOW THEY CAN GET AWAY WITH IT.

Tom March 14, 2011 at 8:41 pm

Good point.

The WH Press Corps needs to ban together, like they did against Robert “I, um, am not a lawyer” Gibbs and STICK IT TO DA MAN. A single, unified press corps holds all the cards; what can Comrade Obama do? Replace them?

Keith – keep the good articles hummin!

Sara B March 14, 2011 at 3:05 pm

I guess you must be a bully to understand a bully. This White House has that market cornered. It’s the Chicago Way.

Paul Kroenke March 14, 2011 at 4:11 pm

Good post, Keith. I’m glad there is recognition of this at some sort of national level now.

This was coming even during the election in 2008. It’s the way of the Daley Chicago Machine (http://organizedexploitation.blogspot.com/2009/01/welcome-to-chicago-machine.html) and the only solution is for members of the media such as yourself, Tapper to some extent so far, and others, to continue to fight back (http://organizedexploitation.blogspot.com/2009/01/ghost-in-machine.html)

Keith Koffler March 14, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Thanks Paul. Great post there. It looks like you predicted this. I don’t think the press is fighting back hard enough, not is it fully serving its role as guardian of our liberty. Part of this is due to the current nature of journalism, which prizes speed and insider news over investigation, which it can no longer afford to do. Anyway, I will give your blog a closer look. Any blog that features a Mencken quote is good with me. Mencken, in fact, is part of the model for what I’m doing.

JoshK March 14, 2011 at 6:02 pm

Bump and you probably will hit another raw nerve on this column.
I mean, how can you be so dam*ed judgmental! //sarcasm

JoshK March 14, 2011 at 6:38 pm

Oh, … and great post Keith!
Worth every sling and arrow…

Keith Koffler March 14, 2011 at 10:01 pm

Thanks JoshK, I’ll take them!

Tom March 14, 2011 at 8:22 pm

Keith,

Great article.

The liberal MSM are obviously in a pickle … as they, lubricated and lathered over with love for Mr. Obama during the election …. now can’t get an honest answer from him, get an FOIA and are up against the Chicago machine instead of a real White House press office.

We forget the leopard cannot change its spots: Mr. Obama is a product of the Chicago machine where the press are completely in the pocket of the left-wing cartel.

During the election, Mr. Obama never had to answer questions about his past, Rev. Wright, Tony Rezco or his friend, the American Jihadist Bill Ayers.

The liberal White House Press Corps cannot knuckle under, but FIGHT BACK.

ITEM: Remember what Dylan Ratigan said the other night: liberals will not attack an African-American President.

Keith Koffler March 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Thanks Tom.

Jay March 14, 2011 at 9:11 pm

We need a concerted effort to break through the embargo the news media sets up on stories like this. Not being a media professional myself, I wonder if you might have any suggestions, Mr. Hoffler.

Keith Koffler March 14, 2011 at 10:00 pm

Jay, I agree with you, which is why I started my blog. My idea is to hold the White House accountable at all costs, and report what others are too polite or frightened to say. I have an advantage in that the White House knows I’m not looking to be fed stories by them, and so I don’t need to scratch their backs, and I have no editor to please with “insider stories that only White House staffers can dispense. The news biz is too collaborative between the reporters and those they are covering, and I honestly am not sure how to change it except to go independent like I have.

Anonna March 14, 2011 at 10:16 pm

Why don’t some of these reporters record the conversations and release them? It could be coordinated to share release on the same day.

I don’t doubt that what you are saying is true, but most Obots won’t even entertain the subject unless there is unedited tape.

Of course, they will say that The One didn’t know about those calls and is deeply saddened by them, but the damage will have been done to the callers by the publicity.

Keith Koffler March 14, 2011 at 10:23 pm

Good question, Anonna. One of the incidents I mentioned was actually via email. I think everyone is just genuinely afraid of getting in hot water with the press office.

anninarizona March 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm

So, Keith, how’s it feel to have sold your soul to the Democratic Party? Now when your grandchildren ask you what you did for a living in the Obama years you can tell them you were playing the piano in a whorehouse. Because you and your press buddies and their editors are doing just that.

Star March 15, 2011 at 11:45 am

How do you figure? Sold his soul to the Dem party? What?

Mary March 15, 2011 at 12:42 pm

What a ridiculous question. People that are kissing up to the left wing part of this society are the ones drinking the Kool-Aid and in the years to come will have to answer for their willingness to be completely blind to the destruction of our country from the inside out.

John Mecklin March 15, 2011 at 7:52 pm

I’ve covered government a bit. I see nothing out of the ordinary here. The reporter writes bad (or incompletely positive) stuff about the public official; the public official’s staff tries to intimidate the reporter from doing that any more. Or the staffers cut the reporter’s access to whatever news “exclusives” the public official has to hand out. It’s all pretty standard procedure, from city hall to the county courthouse to the statehouse and on to the Capitol and the White House. You know what’s odd/different? The level of whining from the reporters in regard to the Obama White House. Who, I guess, were too intimidated to whine during the Bush administration.

Dobie101 March 16, 2011 at 8:07 am

a couple of reporters need to grow a pair

Chaviv Lazar March 16, 2011 at 10:04 am

They should be glad I’m not a reporter. I am a natural iconoclast and love stirring up idiots.

Keith Koffler March 16, 2011 at 10:47 am

Journalism needs more iconoclasts.

nikki peel March 17, 2011 at 12:03 am

I can question his motives no more.

Corey Schmitz March 18, 2011 at 5:08 pm

In what way is Dana Milbank not a hack? Everyone on the right and the left can agree on that I would think. Seriously though, this exact complaint has been made since the first Lincoln administration. If I was a WH, and I took a look at the crap that the MSM produces on a daily basis, I wouldn’t be too anxious to fully cooperate either.

TRACY June 11, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Doesn’t Valerie Jarrett have a ton to do with that?

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