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Des Moines Register Throws Obama the Bait and Switch

by Keith Koffler on October 24, 2012, 5:52 pm

A bit of bad journalism just happened.

The Des Moines Register agreed Tuesday to an off the record interview with President Obama and then publicly whined about it on its website this morning to pressure the White House to put it on the record.

Faced with the bad optics of “the openness White House” trying to squash the free flow of information, the White House quickly relented this morning and allowed the Register to run the interview.

The problem here is that when a reporter tells someone they are off the record, they say things they might not otherwise have said. The reporter then has a better interview than he or she would otherwise have had, and the subject may have revealed more than they wanted to.

To then take advantage of this by publicly pressuring the person to allow the interview to be aired is a violation of trust. It’s unethical. You are setting yourself up to benefit by pulling a bait and switch.

The White House had demanded that the chat be off the record. If the Register viewed this as a potentially news making event, it should have refused to do the interview.

From the indignant piece run by the newspaper to pressure the White House:

It was a “personal call” to the Register’s publisher and editor, we were told. The specifics of the conversation could not be shared because it was off-the-record.

Of course, we immediately lobbied his campaign staff in Des Moines for a formal, on-the-record call . . .

No reason was given for the unusual condition of keeping it private.

We relented and took the call. How could we not? It’s the leader of the free world on line one.

And as we weigh with our editorial board this critical decision about who to endorse, it was necessary for us to discuss the challenges confronting our state, nation and world with the president -– even when handcuffed by rules related to what could be shared.

Really? There isn’t enough public information about the vast differences between Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney that the Register can’t make up its mind without doing its own personal colonoscopy on each of the candidates?

The piece continued:

It’s important that I emphasize the White House’s decision won’t play a factor in our board’s final endorsement decision. That would be petty and ridiculous. We take far too seriously what’s at stake this election and what our endorsement should say.

This is absurd. How does the White House know if feeling jilted won’t affect their decision? No one can completely separate the personal from the professional. Romney had met with them in the flesh. His interview was on the record.

And indeed, Obama did say something stupid, appearing to suggest that he would work on immigration reform as a payback to Hispanics for their votes.

The second thing I’m confident we’ll get done next year is immigration reform. And since this is off the record, I will just be very blunt. Should I win a second term, a big reason I will win a second term is because the Republican nominee and the Republican Party have so alienated the fastest-growing demographic group in the country, the Latino community.

And this is a relatively new phenomenon. George Bush and Karl Rove were smart enough to understand the changing nature of America. And so I am fairly confident that they’re going to have a deep interest in getting that done. And I want to get it done because it’s the right thing to do and I’ve cared about this ever since I ran back in 2008.

The right to gain access to the truth about our leaders and hold them accountable is why I’m in this business.

But when journalists discard their integrity and burn sources, Freedom of the Press takes a hit.

Leave a Comment

{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

drk October 24, 2012 at 6:17 pm

Agreed, it’s very bad to do as the paper did. However, on the other hand, I feel little sympathy for the Chief Bait and Switcher of the USA.

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lc southern October 24, 2012 at 6:23 pm

What they did was wrong, but so was the call to offer an interview off the record. Why do an interview if it has to be off the record?

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Martha Trowbridge October 24, 2012 at 6:31 pm

“Why do an interview if it has to be off the record?”

To con the paper into supporting him based on his plan for immigration, without having to publicly state what he’s up to.

Note his arrogant assessment that the Republican Party has “so alienated” Latinos – which he clearly and callously sees simply as a VOTER BLOCK
["fastest growing demographic group in the country"]. I am certain they’ll be delighted to discover the true nature of Obama’s attentions.

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Mr. T. October 24, 2012 at 7:44 pm

“This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.”

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Sadie October 24, 2012 at 6:36 pm

Keith, I understand from your perspective that the Register didn’t play by journalistic rules/integrity…BUT (yes, it’s a big but) from this side of the conundrum, the press has been reporting through the Obama filter/rose-colored glasses for years. Obama asking for an off-the-record interview this late in the campaign is ludicrous, manipulative – he actually wanted the info leaked.

My conclusion: No plan for more jobs. Big plans for the Obama Library.

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Lizzy October 24, 2012 at 6:38 pm

Considering the circumstances of what might come of the Benghazi coverup if
I were little Barry I’d consider this a ‘bump in the road’ things could get a lot
worse. Tit for tat how long has he gotten a free pass from the media

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RT October 24, 2012 at 6:39 pm

Keith – agreed. Many other avenues to source and report…. Hope it does not set a trend…

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AnotherOpinion October 24, 2012 at 6:41 pm

As far as can be determined, this media outlet is not much different from the mainstream. Integrity fell by the wayside a long time ago. If you doubt it, then explain the lack of it these past years. Therefore no Kudos or blames for any of them. Throw them on the pile of MSM.

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Nina Murphy October 24, 2012 at 6:44 pm

Koffler is absolutely right to call that newspaper out on this. It doesn’t matter that the MSM has carried Obama’s water for years. Journalism is supposed to be fair and responsible. Of course with MSM it rarely is, but take that up with them. (signed) Former professional photojournalist.

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blondie October 24, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Corrupt media?! What else is new?
With the exception of you,Keith!

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Robin H October 24, 2012 at 7:13 pm

Given the lack of press conferences, closed to media events and other games this WH has played, too bad for Obama. This is what infuriates me most about this: he’ll say one thing on the record and another off the record? Unless it’s classified information, why?

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veritaseequitas October 24, 2012 at 7:30 pm

A) Barack has been hoist by his own petard.
B) The vast majority of the media has no integrity left anyway, so why is what the DesMoines Register did such a shock? It fits right in with the underhanded way most of the media operates these days.

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WMP October 24, 2012 at 7:31 pm

I appreciate your ethics Keith. I agree it was not professional. However, how is this any different than Romney making comments at a fundraiser that were not intended for the press and someone infiltrates and uses a data phone to record his comments and then it goes Viral and the Democrats are just as much a party to it. Ethics have gone out the window and that goes for our politicians as well. The spinning on the Benghazi mess is beyond belief and the media (print and television) aiding and abetting is disgusting. Keep up the good work – one can hope that people will finally raise up and protest unethical acts of our media and something may finally happen.

As an aside – good comment by another poster. Why in the world would President Obama do an off the record interview right now? He really does create most of his problems.

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Sadie October 24, 2012 at 7:37 pm

That was me and he believes he’s messaging the masses -
Iowa has a 5% Latino population.

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WMP October 24, 2012 at 7:32 pm

One additional comment – if President Obama agreed to an off the record interview – he should have stuck by that and not agreed to them releasing the information.

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srdem65 October 24, 2012 at 8:40 pm

I smell a rat.
The newspaper gets publicity for demanding to make his statements public. So, he comes forward and says OK, release the off-the-record information and lo, and behold, it’s a promise to the Hispanic community to work for immigration reform in his next term. He also gets the newspaper to print his scathing remarks about the anti-Hispanic Repubs.

I smell two rats.

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Sadie October 24, 2012 at 8:46 pm

You got a “nose” for news. Excellent points.

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desertdweller October 24, 2012 at 9:19 pm

I was thinking the same thing too.

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Susan October 24, 2012 at 10:04 pm

You are spot on, srdem. The rats are scurrying around trying to save their light-bringer from a well-deserved crash and burn. He refused to sit down for an on the record interview with the paper’s editorial board as Romney found time to do. How else to get his spiel out unchallenged? Give a one-on-one interview with a couple of adoring journolisto fanboys, make an issue about it being off record so Drudge picks it up, and as a result everybody knows what he said. Mission accomplished. They really do think we’re stupid.

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Omy Park October 24, 2012 at 10:19 pm

That was my initial thought, an orchestrated campaign ad.

“Oh please Mr. newspaper man, don’t print that I’m confident we’ll get immigration reform done next year if I’m re-elected.”

The behavior of our national media/entertainment industry is sickening. As we are witnessing before our very eyes regarding Libya, Obama feels he can orchestrate lie and decieve time and time again because he knows the media has his back.

Unfortuately, I have friends and co-workers who swear by this guy. Nothing sways them. Facts just roll off their backs. Evidence never penetrates their blind eyes. Obama’s lies never seem to penetrate into their brains. These are the 47% who will increase to 51% if Obama wins. Then we are doomed.

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Cooper October 24, 2012 at 10:50 pm

Collusion between the media and the Obama WH, who would have thunk it? The head rat is doing anything he can to keep his job with the great benefits package. Lies, deception, manipulation, threats…whatever it takes. The msm has gone over to the other side and become part of the narrative instead of reporting it.

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MT for re-redistribution October 25, 2012 at 12:38 am

I agree, the whole thing stinks. What possible reason could there be for 1) the newspaper doing an off-the-record interview and 2) the pResident doing an off-the-record interview? None whatsoever. It was an endorsement/publicity deal. More chicagoan ~lies.

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WKRW October 25, 2012 at 8:38 am

That was my first thought as well…

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Anonna October 24, 2012 at 10:42 pm

Ah, latinos — our fast-growing group of racists who do not want to learn the language of the land because they want to remake the land and who are largely composed of illegal aliens — why doesn’t anyone ever comment on what a disaster it is for the U.S. that this is “our fastest-growing demographic group?”

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CiscoKid October 25, 2012 at 7:58 am

There is a great difference between those whose first step on becoming a U.S. citzenship was to fill out the proper paperwork and patiently wait in line for their number to be called, thus a legal immigrant, as opposed to those whose first step to ” amnesty ” citizenship is breaking the law and just walk across the border becoming a * illegal * alien, a criminal.

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Susan October 25, 2012 at 10:11 am

You are absolutely correct, CiscoKid. The majority of legal immigrants have more love and respect for America and our Constitution than many of the people who were born here.

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Star October 25, 2012 at 12:04 pm

I hear they will still endorse him–booo. Yes, this violated the unwritten rules of journalism–but almost everything does these days…I guess I am outraged…but as I said, they will still go for him.

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If the election results are substantially different than what the alphabet national networks have been telling us, then we know Obama has promised change and delivered to us a socialist-totalitarian police state where the media and journalists are under the complete control and financing of the White House. We’ll know this one way or the other on Tuesday. It’s one of the most important “dots” for us to connect.

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